Seattle, WA – Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an executive order early Wednesday morning that declared the cop-free occupied zone around the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct an “unlawful assembly” and called for immediate action to tear it down.
The move comes one day after the outraged mayor called for an investigation of a city councilwoman who led protesters to a demonstration in front of her house on Sunday.
Durkan’s order said her goal was to “restore public safety” to the six blocks dubbed the Capital Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP), formerly known as the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), NBC News reported.
Seattle police officers held a perimeter as city crews began removing the barricades at about 5 a.m. on July 1, KOMO reported.
Police gave protesters inside the Capital Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP), formerly known as the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), multiple warnings to leave the area and began arresting several who objected to the order.
“Anyone who remains in the area, or returns to the area, is subject to arrest,” Seattle police said.
At least 23 protesters had been arrested by 7:45 a.m. for failure to disperse, obstruction, resisting arrest, and assault, the Seattle police tweeted.
As of 7:45 AM, officers have made 23 arrests in the #CHOP zone for failure to disperse, obstruction, resisting arrest, and assault. One of the arrestees, a 29-year-old man, was in possession of a large metal pipe and kitchen knife when he was taken into custody. pic.twitter.com/12qT7psBQQ
— Seattle Police Dept. (@SeattlePD) July 1, 2020
Police said that some angry protesters flipped over porta potties that the city of Seattle had provided to the protesters and that tensions remained high as crews worked to clear barricades, tents, signs, and other debris from the area.
“Officers are investigating several vehicles circling the area of today’s operation,” Seattle Police tweeted. “Police have observed individuals in the vehicles with firearms/armor. The vehicles also appear to be operating without visible license plates.”
The officers who were assisting in the teardown of the CHOP were wearing crowd-control gear, KOMO reported.
Seattle police said the officers were dressed that way because some of the protesters in the CHOP were known to be armed and violent.
“Because suspects in recent shootings may still be in the area, and because numerous people in the area are in possession of firearms, Seattle Police officers involved in this morning’s response will be equipped with additional protective gear,” the police department tweeted. “Since demonstrations at the East Precinct area began on June 8th, two teenagers have been killed and three people have been seriously wounded in late-night shootings. Police have also documented robberies, assaults, and other violent crimes.”
Seattle police said that 65 crimes were reported in the CHOP area so far this year as opposed to 37 crimes in the area in all of 2019, KOMO reported.
“The CHOP has become lawless and brutal,” Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said in a written statement released early Wednesday morning. “Four shootings – two fatal – robberies, assaults, violence and countless property crimes have occurred in this several block area.”
— Brandi Kruse (@BrandiKruse) July 1, 2020
— Denise Whitaker🏃♀️ (@deniseonKOMO) July 1, 2020
On Friday, protesters stopped city crews from removing the barricades by lying in the road and brandishing a firearm.
KOMO reported that people laid down in the street to block equipment and at least one weapon was drawn by a protester when city crews arrived to begin cleaning up that area.
Self-appointed leaders of the CHOP have told city officials that they would not relinquish the occupied zone until their list of demands has been met, KOMO reported.
And after a brief standoff on June 26, the city backed down and announced it would not attempt to retake the East Precinct that day.
JUST IN: Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office says Seattle PD won’t return to the East Precinct today, inside the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone, known as CHOP, after city crews were blocked by protesters from entering the area this morning.
— Preston Phillips (@PrestonTVNews) June 26, 2020
“SPD had no plans to return to the East Precinct today,” a spokesman for Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan told reporters, according to KOMO.
No announcement has been made with regard to when the city will make its next attempt.
A representative for the mayor attempted to tour the occupied zone with the Seattle fire chief, but they were both run out of the area by angry protesters, KOMO reported.
Durkan also has not publicly addressed the group’s list of demands.
The group which has called itself the “CHOP Council” wants the Seattle Police Department and the associated court system to be abolished, according to a list of demands posted to Medium on June 9.
They also demanded that all armed force by police be banned entirely in the meantime.
Leaders of the CHOP demanded “reparations for police brutality” and that all prisoners incarcerated for marijuana-related crimes or resisting arrest be released and their records expunged, according to the list on Medium.
The protesters who have illegally occupied six blocks of the city also demanded “the abolition of imprisonment, generally speaking, but especially the abolition of both youth prisons and privately-owned, for-profit prisons” and an end to prosecutorial immunity for police, among other weighty topics.
The mayor and Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best announced at a press conference on June 22 that they would be dismantling the city’s “autonomous zone” after the bloody weekend in what Durkan had dubbed the city’s “summer of love.”
Durkan asked community leaders to spread the message that it was time to clear out to the people camping out in the six blocks surrounding the East Precinct, KOMO reported.
When the protests first began in the occupied area, the mayor referred to the hundreds of protesters in the CHOP as a block party.
“We’ve got four blocks in Seattle that you just saw pictures of that is more like a block party atmosphere,” Durkan told CNN. “It’s not an armed takeover. It’s not a military junta. We will make sure that we can restore this. But we have block parties and the like in this part of Seattle all the time. It’s known for that.”
She shrugged off questions about how long the area would remain occupied by protesters.
“We could have the summer of love,” Durkan said.
Since that time, there have been six shootings inside the CHOP, with two fatalities, one of them a 16-year-old boy.
Three of the victims were juveniles.
Armed protesters guarding the barricades around the CHOP have refused to allow Seattle police access so they could clear the area for the Seattle Fire Department.
A large group of residents and business owners has sued the city and alleged the mayor allowed the occupation of the city to continue without interference despite the fact it was depriving them of the rights to their own properties.
The lawsuit alleged that protesters had threatened business owners with retaliation if any of them tried to remove the graffiti painted on their buildings, KING reported.
In one incident, neither police nor fire department personnel responded when looters broke into an auto shop located along the perimeter of the occupied zone.
After the mayor and the police chief announced it was time for the CHOP to come down, Durkan asked community leaders to spread the message that it was time to clear out to the people camping out in the six blocks surrounding the East Precinct, KOMO reported.
The mayor said she didn’t want to have to use police to tear down the CHOP, KOMO reported.