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Climate change, abortion rights lead D.C.-area July Fourth protests

Demonstrations were unconnected to truck convoy protests, police say

People protesting climate change shut down the Beltway on July 4, with major backups at the Colesville Road exit in Maryland. (Luz Lazo/The Washington Post)
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About 20 people blocked all lanes and both shoulders of Interstate 495′s inner loop at the U.S. 29/Colesville Road exit Monday afternoon.

Declare Emergency, a group seeking governmental action on climate change, took credit for the disruption. On its website, the group has demanded that President Biden declare a national state of emergency.

“It was a collaborative effort that included one young lady who is eight months pregnant and worried about the world that her baby would be born into,” Declare Emergency member Paul Severance said in a phone interview.

Severance said that police made several arrests and that he witnessed people who had moved from the cars in front of him, going limp, as police took them away. He presumed some would be charged with resisting arrest. Maryland State Police noted on Twitter that the road was reopened by midafternoon but did not provide further information.

Severance noted that their small group, mostly in Montgomery County, was part of larger actions on climate issues.

“We’ve mobilized throughout the country. We’ve had calls with Noam Chomsky and [comedian-activist] Adam McKay, and we’ve also gone door-to-door,” he said. “We’re doing what we can to get more people involved.”

He added: “We are nonviolent civil resisters. We respect everyone — the drivers we block, the police, everyone.”

The protest was not related to a trucker convoy that was causing traffic delays on Interstate 95, police said.

On July 4, climate change protesters shut down the Beltway with major backups at the Colesville Road exit. (Video: Luz Lazo)

Photos showed several protesters sitting down across the Beltway, blocking traffic.

State police reopened the Beltway just before 2 p.m., according to Montgomery County’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

The Beltway climate change demonstrators were one of multiple groups exercising their right to assemble throughout the region on Independence Day.

A trucker convoy, the 1776 Restoration Movement formerly known as “the People’s Convoy,” blocked traffic on I-95 to denounce vaccine mandates. And abortion rights groups gathered outside the Supreme Court building throughout the day in objection to the court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade. Another group planned a march to the National Mall later Monday night.

Chantelle Piper, 32, traveled from New York three weeks ago to help organize Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights rallies in D.C.

She said she wished more people would protest on the streets with them but was happy with the turnout Monday.

“People answered the call,” she said. “People that have never protested before, people that really felt anger about not wanting to celebrate the Fourth of July, not when this right’s been taken away.”

Teo Armus contributed to this report.