The roster of plaintiffs has ballooned to nearly 100 and the driver in the deadly crash that killed an activist during a protest on I-5 has been added as a defendant in the sprawling personal injury, wrongful death, and civil rights lawsuit brought by protesters against Seattle and Olympia.
The lawsuit now names 55 parties including the estate of Summer Taylor, the Capitol Hill activist hit and killed by a speeding driver as Washington State Patrol closed I-5 during the July protest, plus another 40 anonymous “Doe” defendants.
“The BLM/George Floyd protests continue to this day, and have resulted in additional injuries not just to these Plaintiffs but countless others, including other individuals represented by the undersigned counsel,” the legal team for the plaintiffs writes.
Meanwhile, a protester who became one of the best known faces of the summer CHOP protests and BLM marches has been removed from the lawsuit, according to recent filings part of maneuvering by Stritmatter Kessler Koehler Moore and Cedar Law PLLC, the firms handling the case that proponents say could set important new precedents in protest litigation.
Dan Gregory, the unarmed protester shot as he tried to disarm Nikolas Fernandez, the brother of an East Precinct officer, after Fernandez drove into a demonstration crowd at 11th and Pine in June, has temporarily dropped his claims until the criminal case around Fernandez is “fleshed out,” lawyer Karen Koehler tells CHS.
Koehler, who calls the complaint a “historic lawsuit about the right of protest,” says the decision to add Dawit Kelete to the protester lawsuit joining defendants the City of Seattle and the State of Washington would be a standard legal procedure in a wrongful death case involving something like highway design. The question in this case will be one about the Washington State Patrol’s actions and blocking on-ramps and exits but the need to include the driver in the Summer Taylor vehicular homicide case in the lawsuit will be similar, and, Koehler says, will help the plaintiffs if the state attempts to argue that the driver’s decisions, not the WSP’s actions, are at fault.
Kelete, meanwhile, was ordered released from jail and placed on home detention despite being held on bail of $1.2 million in January. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, and reckless driving.
In addition to the state’s failures to safely secure I-5, the plaintiffs allege SPD used unconstitutional excessive force and militarized tactics, including the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and blast balls against peaceful protesters. SKKM and Cedar also allege that SPD targeted the plaintiffs because they were protesting about racial issues.
Currently slated for a September trial date, the complaints from the massive lawsuit’s newly added defendants add to these allegations including details of injuries from crowd control explosives, rubber bullets, and harsh treatment during arrests and in custody — including one allegation of a jail guard slamming a plaintiff’s head “into the surface of a desk, breaking his two front teeth.”
“This lawsuit is filed on behalf of peaceful protesters in Seattle, all of whom were cloaked within the power of the Washington State Constitution to engage in Freedom of Speech and Assemblage on behalf The Black Lives Matter Movement and George Floyd,” the complaint reads.
The full amended complaint with details for each plaintiff is below.
Images of alleged abuses brought by new plaintiffs in the lawsuit
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