Seattle, WA – A group of 18 residents, businesses, and property owners fed up with the chaos in their neighborhood have filed a lawsuit against the city of Seattle for allowing the illegal occupation of the area around the police department’s East Precinct to continue without interference.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit complained that city officials have been complicit in depriving them of their rights to their own properties by allowing the Capital Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP), formerly known as the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), to continue unabated, KING reported.
In the suit, the plaintiffs’ attorneys made it clear their clients didn’t oppose the Black Lives Matter message or cause, just what was being done to their neighborhood by the protesters.
“This lawsuit is about the constitutional and other legal rights of Plaintiffs—businesses, employees, and residents in and around CHOP—which have been overrun by the City of Seattle’s unprecedented decision to abandon and close off an entire city neighborhood, leaving it unchecked by the police, unserved by fire and emergency health services, and inaccessible to the public at large,” the suit read, according to KING.
“The City’s decision has subjected businesses, employees, and residents of that neighborhood to extensive property damage, public safety dangers, and an inability to use and access their properties,” it read.
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.
More than a dozen apartment buildings and small businesses are a part of the suit.
The group said they wanted the city of Seattle held accountable for the deadly shootings, assaults, noise pollution, property damage, and ongoing violence it permitted to happen by allowing protesters to continue the occupation of their neighborhood, according to KING.
“The City’s policies have effectively authorized the actions of the CHOP participants,” the lawsuit read. “The City has communicated clearly to CHOP participants that they may indefinitely continue occupying the streets in the area, maintaining their barricades, and blocking traffic, all without interference from the City.”
The mayor and Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best announced at a press conference on Monday 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.
The mayor’s office has been swamped by a deluge of complaints from residents and business owners whose lives have been upended by the restricted access to the area barricaded off and guarded by armed protesters.
Durkan said she didn’t want to have to use police to tear down the CHOP, KOMO reported.
But video posted to social media showed that as of early Tuesday morning, protesters had begun moving concrete barriers place around the East Precinct by the Seattle Department of Transportation and used them to block additional streets, effectively annexing more territory for the cop-free, autonomous zone.
Neighbor just sent me this video showing #CHOP protestors using a truck to haul concrete barriers away from the front of the East Precinct where SDOT originally put them. They’re now blocking Pine Street @komonews #komonews pic.twitter.com/UaBRttWHc4
— Tammy Mutasa (@TammyKOMO) June 23, 2020
Actually shutting down the CHOP may be difficult to accomplish after the city banned police officers from possessing crowd-control weapons.
“The cumulative impacts of the gatherings and protests and the nighttime atmosphere and violence has led to increasingly difficult circumstances for our businesses and residents,” the mayor announced, according to FOX News. “The impacts have increased and the safety has decreased.”
The city council ban prohibits police officer possession of blast balls, “foam-tipped projectiles,” flash-bang grenades or CS tear gas, regardless of the situation, the Seattle Patch reported.
Water cannons, various acoustic devices, and other weapons capable of causing discomfort or pain to a group of people are also included in the bill.
The ban also includes the use OC pepper spray on crowds, but officers would be permitted to use the spray if they catch someone in the middle of committing a crime or if a suspect is “presenting an imminent danger to others,” as long as no bystanders are exposed when it is deployed, the Seattle Patch reported.
Some of the people within CHOP are openly carrying firearms.
Socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who sponsored the bills, said that the measures are the “absolute bare minimum” actions the council could take as they work to defund the Seattle Police Department (SPD), according to the Seattle Patch.
Councilmember Lisa Herbold originally attempted to amend the bill by limiting the ban to crowd dispersal only, but the modification was shot down after Sawant and protesters denounced it.
“Passing legislation is not going to be enough, but yet it is crucially important for the movement to hold elected officials accountable,” Sawant told the Seattle Patch. “It is about not allowing police to have possession of these weapons, and that is related to the fact that we cannot trust them.”
Neighbors said that whatever it takes for the city to close down the CHOP, it’s time to do it, KOMO reported.
Kelly Forsythe, who lives by Cal Anderson Park, said he woke up to gunfire on Tuesday morning.
“I went to check the ground there was a lot of things crushed and there was basically three giant piles of really thick blood,” Forsythe told KOMO. “When there’s blood on the streets, there needs to be some respect. That’s the problem here, we’ve got blood on our streets now and it’s happening every day and it’s not stopping and I don’t see it stopping.”
“It’s just been a pressure cooker for 13 days. An endless pressure cooker – it needs to be cleaned up,” he added.