Traffic on the Beltway Inner Loop after protesters block lanes near Exit 30 in Silver Spring. Credit: Anne Tallent

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3 p.m. Oct. 10, 2022 with more information about the protest and those arrested by state police.

Maryland State Police arrested seven climate activists Monday morning in connection with an hour-long protest that shut down the Beltway Inner Loop at the Colesville Road exit in Silver Spring.

Officers responded shortly before 10:30 a.m. to several calls about protesters wearing neon vests and holding signs who were blocking the highway lanes, according to a state police press release. More than 10 protesters were sitting in the road and blocking all lanes while several others were walking around and holding signs, the release said.

Troopers, assisted by Montgomery County police officers, asked the protesters “multiple times to leave so they could be issued a criminal citation,” according to the release.

Those who didn’t obey were arrested and charged with obstructing or hindering the free passage of another in a public place or on a public conveyance and failing to obey law enforcement officer who attempts to prevent a disturbance to the public peace, the release said. The seven who were arrested were taken to the Montgomery County Detention Center for processing.

Those arrested were identified as:

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  • Robert Achison, 74, of Vermont
  • William Regan, 43, of Oregon
  • Nora Swisher, 32, of Maryland
  • Mary Osterbrink, 68, of North Carolina
  • Andrew Hinz, 61, of Maryland
  • Holley White, 58, of New York
  • Jason Goward, 38, of Michigan

By 11:15 a.m. authorities had reopened all lanes of the Beltway Inner Loop at the Colesville Road exit, according to state police.

A dozen-plus supporters from around the country also gathered on the Colesville Road overpass, just south of where protesters had blocked the inner loop. Several said the climate protest was timed in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples Day, which is Monday, amid concerns about fracking and pipelines.

A woman who identified herself as Erica Suzeette, a member of the Dakota and Lakota Sioux and an Army veteran,  said she had traveled from the Crow Creek Sioux reservation in Thompson, S.D.

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“I came here in solidarity for the campaign for climate justice,” she said, and in opposition to the “greedy and corrupt people” who have despoiled the environment.

Paul Severance of Washington, D.C., an organizer with Declare Emergency, confirmed Monday morning that seven activists had been arrested. One indigenous person was among them, Suzeette said.

“Indigenous people know how to care for the earth,” Severance said. 

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While the lanes were blocked, police diverted traffic onto southbound Colesville Road.

On July 4, protesters from Declare Emergency also stopped traffic on the Beltway at the same interchange.

According to its website, Declare Emergency is part of a coalition of “civil resistance groups … aiming to force legislative change” in the U.S. and other western nations. The group is demanding the U.S. declare a climate emergency and cease fossil fuel extraction on “federal and indigenous land.”

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“Our method is to disrupt business as usual: to get the public and the media to confront our reality, and to force a government response,” the website says.

The July 4 protesters were charged with offenses that included disturbing the peace and failure to obey a reasonable or lawful order, according to a statement from Maryland State Police. Four of the protesters were also charged with resisting arrest, police said.

One counter-protester was charged with second-degree assault and resisting arrest, according to police.

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Julie Rasicot

Julie Rasicot can be reached at julie.rasicot@bethesdamagazine.com