Washington man sues to restore public access to state capitol

A Washington man filed a lawsuit to force the state to reopen the state Capitol and surrounding grounds.

Governor Jay Inslee ordered an 8-foot tall fence constructed around the Capitol in Olympia over concerns of possible violence following the U.S. Capitol riot and coronavirus safety.

Tyler Miller, 40, of “Hazardous Liberty” has cited the desire to restore the “aesthetic quality” and accusing Inslee of “infringements on the constitutionally protected rights” of Washington citizens.

A group of anti-fascist protesters dressed in black make a brief stop outside a perimeter fence being watched by National Guard members and Washington State Patrol troopers, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee activated members of the National Guard this week to work with the Washington State Patrol to protect the Capitol campus. The group, part of a larger protest that was taking place in downtown Olympia, left after several minutes of exchanging words with troopers and guard members. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

A group of anti-fascist protesters dressed in black make a brief stop outside a perimeter fence being watched by National Guard members and Washington State Patrol troopers, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee activated members of the National Guard this week to work with the Washington State Patrol to protect the Capitol campus. The group, part of a larger protest that was taking place in downtown Olympia, left after several minutes of exchanging words with troopers and guard members. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

“People are feeling like this access isn’t really access,” said Miller, arguing the closure of the Capitol is unconstitutional. “It’s a means to control and keep people out as much as possible.”

Miller, a U.S. Navy veteran, believes the restrictions limit transparency, despite the fact that state legislators are working remotely, KOMO News reported.

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The lawsuit also seeks to limit future action that would restrict public access to the building.

The emergency services department closed a large section of the Capitol campus and erected temporary fences following the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Emergency services department spokeswoman Linda Kent said in an email that the “extended security measures” are in place to ensure the safety of state lawmakers, officials and employees.

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Miller argued, however, that the “technological inequities” of remote work is a hindrance to a properly functioning government.

“The presence of people in a room carries with it a weight and an experience that cannot be duplicated in the virtual,” Miller said.

One state senator, Joe Nguyen, claimed instead that the opposite has happened.

“We have more access to legislators than you’ve never seen before,” said Sen. Nguyen. “We’re seeing thousands of people coming to testify for the very first time.”

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Nguyen added that he doesn’t believe everyone would return even when in-person working resumes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Peter Aitken is a New York born-and-raised reporter with a focus on national and global news.