The Capitol Hill CHAZ/CHOP zone in Seattle has been dismantled by the Seattle Police Department. This morning at approximately 5:00 am PT, the Seattle Police Department gave the order that everyone was to leave the area. The police went in with armored vehicles and riot gear, using pepper spray and flashbangs. It took the police just under an hour to take back control and disperse the protestors that had taken over the area 23 days ago on June 8th. At least 31 arrests have been made so far today. In just the past several days, there have been 4 shootings in the area, leaving two teenagers dead and 3 other people seriously wounded. In total, 65 robberies, assaults, and other crimes were committed during the 23 day period that CHAZ/CHOP was left to operate. The police chief said the area had become lawless and brutal.
The East Precinct was abandoned by the Seattle Police Department on June 9th after Mayor Jenny Durkan (D) let the protestors declare the area the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. The violence quickly escalated once the demonstrators brought in armed guards at the barricades. Not surprisingly, today's order comes after protestors went to the home of Jenny Durkan on Sunday, sharing their demands and spraypainting her property with graffiti. The mayor's office shared the following statement Sunday night:
"Mayor Durkan and her family are in the state program to keep their address confidential because of the death threats mostly related to her work as Seattle's U.S. Attorney under President Obama. Instead of working to make true change, Council-member Sawant continues to choose political stunts. Tonight she did so without regard for the safety of the Mayor and her family. The Mayor was not even home - she was working at City Hall. Seattle can and should peacefully demonstrate but should not put families and children at risk.
One of the protestors said in front of Durkan's home, "We came down to Jenny Durkan's mansion to bring the demands of the movement and of the families who have been impacted by police violence to her doorstep as she seems to not be able to hear our demands any other way".
Horace Lorenzo Anderson, the father of one of the teenage boys killed said "Gotta shut this down. This is nuts, I don't know what this is. This has turned into something else now. This doesn’t look like a protest to me no more,” he added, “That just looks like they just took over and said we can take over whenever we want to.”
Upon notice that the area would be cleared out by police, Black Lives Matter organizers left peacefully. Carmen Best, Seattle Police Chief had a press conference after the area was cleared of demonstrators. "Today, Mayor Jenny Durkan issued a 48-hour public safety emergency order to vacate the East Precinct/Cal Anderson area. Seattle police will be in the area this morning enforcing the Mayor’s order.
This order, and our police response, comes after weeks of violence in and around the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone, including four shootings, resulting in multiple injuries and the deaths of two teenagers.
As I have said, and I will say again, I support peaceful demonstrations. Black Lives Matter, and I too want to help propel this movement toward meaningful change in our community.
But enough is enough.
The CHOP has become lawless and brutal. Four shootings–-two fatal—robberies, assaults, violence, and countless property crimes have occurred in this several block area.
My job, and the job of our officers, is to protect and serve our community. This is not an end to our department’s engagement with demonstrators. We must continue our efforts to build trust and redefine our roles as guardians in our city. I will continue to work with the Community Police Commission, the Office of Police Accountability, the Inspector General, the Mayor, the Seattle City Council and ALL of our community and social justice partners in the coming weeks to encourage peace and to begin a meaningful dialog about re-envisioning public safety in our community".
Attorney General William P. Barr has issued the following statement regarding the CHOP dismantling:
“I commend Police Chief Carmen Best for her courage and leadership in restoring the rule of law in Seattle. For the past several weeks, the Capitol Hill area of Seattle was occupied by protesters who denied access to police and other law enforcement personnel. Unsurprisingly, the area became a haven for violent crime, including shootings that claimed the lives of two young people, assaults, and robberies. As Chief Best made clear throughout the process, there is a fundamental distinction between discussion of substantive issues — including addressing distrust of law enforcement by many in the African-American community — and violent defiance of the law. Chief Best has rightly committed to continue the substantive discussion while ending the violence, which threatens innocent people and undermines the very rule-of-law principles that the protesters profess to defend. Thanks to the Seattle Police Department, Capitol Hill parks, streets, and businesses are again accessible to the people of Seattle, who may travel throughout their city without fear of violence. The people of Seattle should be grateful to Chief Best and her Department for their professional and steadfast defense of the rule of law. The message of today’s action is simple but significant: the Constitution protects the right to speak and assemble freely, but it provides no right to commit violence or defy the law, and such conduct has no place in a free society governed by law”.
Two lawsuits have been filed so far by residents and businesses of the Capitol Hill Neighborhood against the City, and more are expected in the near future.