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Seattle protester dies after being hit by car on closed highway

A protester died on Saturday and another was critically injured after a car drove onto a closed highway in Seattle where a group was holding a demonstration against police brutality. 

A spokesperson at Harborview Medical Center told The Associated Press that Summer Taylor, 24, died in the evening. The hospital added that Diaz Love, 32, of Portland, Ore., was in critical condition in its intensive care unit. 

The incident came as protests continued in Seattle and other parts of the nation following the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Seattle is one of many cities that have been gripped by protests calling for more action against racial inequality for the past several weeks. 

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Protesters in Seattle on Friday night gathered on Interstate 5, which had been closed for the demonstration. At around 1:30 a.m. local time, a car sped around vehicles blocking the entrance of the freeway before driving into a crowd, according to a Washington State Patrol police report obtained by the AP. Video from the scene showed people yelling “Car! Car!” as a white Jaguar approached. 

The vehicle could be seen striking two people, who flew into the air before hitting the ground.

Trooper Chase Van Cleave told the AP that the driver, Dawit Kelete, fled the scene in his car after barreling through the crowd of protestors. A protester followed Kelete by car and was able to stop him by pulling his car in front of Kelete's, Cleave added. Kelete was placed in custody after troopers arrived. 

He was reportedly booked into King County Correctional Facility and is facing vehicular assault charges. 

Officials were still in the process of determining the motive of the crime as of Sunday morning. They were also trying to understand how Kelete got onto the highway, which had been shut down by authorities for more than an hour by the time of the incident. Protesters had shut down the highway for 19 consecutive days up until Friday night, Washington State Patrol Capt. Ron Mead said at a press conference.

Mead stressed that the freeway is “simply not a safe place” for demonstrations and said he hoped the protesters would cease the “unlawful behavior” of blocking the interstate.

The state patrol said in a statement shared on Twitter that they would stop letting protesters enter I-5. 

"For the safety of all citizens including protesters and motorists, pedestrians walking on the freeway will be arrested," the state patrol said.