Protesters with the group Declare Emergency on the Colesville Road bridge over the Beltway in Silver Spring. Credit: Photo by Anne Tallent

This story was updated at 12 p.m. on July 5, 2022, to include additional information from Maryland State Police

A climate protest stopped holiday traffic for more than an hour Monday afternoon on the Beltway in Silver Spring.

Thirteen people were arrested, an organizer with the group Declare Emergency told Bethesda Beat.

The protestors 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 protestors were also charged with resisting arrest, police said.

There was also one counter protestor who was charged with second-degree assault and resisting arrest, police said.

At 1 p.m., Montgomery County’s alert service posted on Twitter that all lanes of the inner loop of the Beltway at the interchange with Colesville Road were blocked due to police activity.

A group of about 15 people clustered on the overpass, showing support for the protesters with signs and recording video messages, while law enforcement vehicles lined the shoulder of the inner loop.

“We have to get in people’s way,” said one of the organizers, Paul Severance of Washington, D.C. “That’s the only way to make change.”

He said Declare Emergency engages in nonviolent civil disobedience in the tradition of protests from the 1960s and said members respect police. He and other protesters said they wanted to get the attention of local, state and federal lawmakers, though the event was not pegged to the Fourth of July holiday.

“We’re here to prove that it’s an emergency because so far nothing has been done.” said Maple Overbrink, who traveled to the protest from North Carolina. “Nothing works until you disrupt. We’re here to model for the rest of the county, here in symbolic D.C., … the pinnacle of doing nothing.”

Drivers were encouraged to avoid the area, and the alert was lifted at 2 p.m.

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.”

“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.”

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com.

Dan Schere

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com.