'Our families are dying:' Protesters shut down freeway in downtown Seattle

All lanes of I-5 north were closed for about an hour Friday afternoon in downtown Seattle due to a protest.

Images from the scene near the Olive Way exit shows multiple vehicles with the Tigray flag the hoods of their cars.

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), all lanes of I-5 north were blocked at Lakeview.

FOX 13 spoke with two of the demonstrators, Helen and Fedilla, off camera.  

They were on the ground but for the safety of their family in Tigray wanted to remain anonymous.

"Our families are dying, our children, their kids being slaughtered," Helen said.

"We're not sure if anybody's alive, or dead or what the case is," Fedilla said.

They were a part of the peaceful caravan, which turned into a headache for those gridlocked, they said they did it for their loved ones, living through a humanitarian crisis.

"This isn't a political issue, it's ethnic cleansing, they're not going to stop until all of Tigray is dead," Fedilla said.  

Friday, Nov. 4, marked two years since the war started.

During this time, these protesters and thousands of others have not been able to communicate with their families. 

"They don't have electricity, they don't have phone, they don't have access to medicine. So we're here to make a point," Helen said.

The demonstrators were seen waving flags, standing and chanting out of their cars as they say 91% of the people in Tigray are being starved to death.

"Nobody wants to be on the freeway, putting anybody at risk or inconveniencing people, but it's sort of like desperate times call for desperate measures," Fedilla said.

Fedilla says a peace treaty was signed two days ago,but the situation has only worsened after Ethiopia bombed Tigray four hours later.

"Then they bombed them again the next day, so we're seeing that this isn't a matter of peace," Fedilla said.

The war now one of the deadliest conflicts in the world globally now being referred to as the Forgotten War, until now.

Dozens of people stopped along Denny to find out what was happening.

Ashley Farber and Austin Cassell were two of them.

"Unfortunately, sometimes it does get to matters like this where you do have to step out and step over that boundary line to make sure that things are being heard," Farber said.

She was happy to see a peaceful protest, while it is illegal she supports them.

"I absolutely plan on going home after I finished my workout and investigating more as a black man in Seattle I want to see more about what's going on in Ethiopia," Cassell said.

He is proof their message was heard and is sparking conversation in our community.

"I do want to apologize for the inconvenience, but I am very proud of the fact that we were able to get that message out there," Fidella said.

The demonstration did bring out WSP made it very clear it’s illegal to block the highway and asked them to disperse.

When asked if they would be willing to be taken into custody the demonstrators didn’t hesitate.

"Absolutely, absolutely, my family's dying," Helen said. "The least I can do is get arrested by bringing awareness."

The protest remained peaceful as dozens of protesters returned to their cars honking as they drove away allowing traffic to flow again.

No one was arrested. 

A banner on the surface of the freeway read "Our families are being murdered! #Tigray genocide."

One protester told FOX 13 News that the group was willing to go to jail as a result of blocking the interstate. Protesters said they were demonstrating two years after the start of Ethiopia's deadly war.


Image obtained by FOX 13 Seattle

Washington State Patrol troopers cleared the protesters from the scene around 3:45 p.m.

Anyone traveling through the area should expect delays. Check our live traffic map here.

Ethiopia asserts government got ’100%′ in Tigray peace deal

This comes two day after the warring sides signed a "permanent cessation of hostilities" in a war that is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of people.

At Wednesday’s signing, the lead negotiator for Tigray described it as containing "painful concessions."

One of the pact’s priorities is to swiftly disarm Tigray forces of heavy weapons, and take away their "light weapons" within 30 days. Senior commanders on both sides are to meet within five days.

Ethiopian security forces will take full control of "all federal facilities, installations, and major infrastructure ... within the Tigray region," and an interim regional administration will be established after dialogue between the parties, the accord says. The terrorist designation for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front party will be lifted.

If implemented, the agreement should mark an end to the devastating conflict in Africa’s second-most populous country. Millions of people have been displaced and many left near famine under a blockade of the Tigray region of more than 5 million people. Abuses have been documented on all sides.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed asserted that his government received everything it asked for in the peace talks.

"During the negotiation in South Africa, Ethiopia’s peace proposal has been accepted 100%," and the government is ready to "open our hearts" for peace to prevail, Abiy said in a speech. He added that the issue of contested areas, seen as one of the most difficult, will be resolved only through the law of the land and negotiations.

Neither Ethiopian government nor Tigray negotiators responded to questions.

As part of the full agreement, both sides agreed not to make any unilateral statement that would undermine it. The deal also calls for the immediate "cessation of all forms of hostile propaganda, rhetoric and hate speech." The conflict has been marked by language that U.S. special envoy Mike Hammer, who helped with the peace talks, has described as having "a high level of toxicity."

"The human cost of this conflict has been devastating. I urge all Ethiopians to seize this opportunity for peace," U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters Thursday, one of many messages from observers expressing cautious hope.

Enormous challenges lie ahead. The opaque and repressive government of neighboring Eritrea, whose forces have fought alongside Ethiopian ones, has not commented, and it was not clear whether Eritrean forces had begun to withdraw. The agreement says Ethiopian forces will be deployed along the borders and "ensure that there will be no provocation or incursion from either side of the border."

Mustafa Yusuf Ali, an analyst with the Horn International Institute for Strategic Studies, said trust-building will be crucial. The agreement "needs to be coordinated, it needs to be systematic, and above all it needs to be sequenced so that the Tigrayans are not left to their devices after handing in all their weapons then suddenly they are attacked by the center," he said.

The agreement sets deadlines for disarmament but little else, although it says Ethiopia’s government will "expedite the provision of humanitarian aid" and "expedite and coordinate the restoration of essential services in the Tigray region within agreed time frames."

The United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross said they had not yet resumed the delivery of humanitarian aid to Tigray, whose communication, transportation and banking links have been largely severed since fighting began. Some basic medicines have run out.

"It’s not surprising that it may take a little bit of time to get the word out to the competent authorities in the field. We are in touch with them and trying to get that unimpeded access as soon as possible," the spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters.

A humanitarian worker in Tigray’s second-largest town, Shire, said there had been no sounds of gunfire over the past few days but people and vehicles were still blocked from moving freely. It was also quiet in the town of Axum, another humanitarian worker said. Both spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

Residents of the Tigray regional capital, Mekele, nervously waited for next steps.

Asked about the peace agreement, resident Gidey Tsadik replied, "It’s good. Everyone is happy. However, it’s not known when exactly we will have that peace."

Tedros Hiwot said residents hadn’t heard when basic services will resume. "We need it to happen quickly," he said.

Tigrayans outside the region said they still could not reach their families by phone. "I hope that this will be an opportunity to reconnect with my family," said Andom Gebreyesus, who lives in Kenya. "I miss them and I don’t know if they are alive."

At a memorial service in the capital, Addis Ababa, for soldiers killed in the conflict, Defense Minister Abraham Belay spoke of "the very complex and tough reconstruction work that lies ahead of us."

This is a developing story. The Associated Press contributed to this report.