Seattle moves to dismantle protest zone after weekend shootings, mayor says

Facing mounting pressure to crack down on a “busy” protest zone after two weekend shootings, the mayor of Seattle said Monday officials will move to reduce the stretch of city streets taken two years ago. weeks.

Mayor Jenny Durkan said at a press conference that the violence distracted the changes sought by thousands of peaceful protesters seeking to tackle racial inequality and police brutality. She said the city is working with the community to end the “Capitol Hill Busy Protest” zone.

“The cumulative impacts of the meetings and protests and the nightlife and violence have led to increasingly difficult circumstances for our businesses and residents,” said Durkan. “The impacts have increased and the security has decreased.”

A shooting on Sunday night was the second in less than 48 hours on the edge of the area, named for the Capitol Hill neighborhood near the city center, which erupted during nationwide protests over the police murder. by George Floyd.

The 17-year-old victim, who was shot in the arm, declined to speak to detectives, police said. The early morning shooting on Saturday left a 19-year-old man dead and another seriously injured. It was unclear if the shooting had anything to do with the protest.

Protesters cordoned off the area of ​​several blocks, known as CHOP, near a police station after clashes with officers in early June. Seattle riot squads unleashed tear gas, pepper spray, and sudden explosions on large crowds of mostly peaceful protesters, prompting the conviction of many city leaders and a federal court order temporarily banning the use of weapons. against protesters.

Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone - Seattle
An image of activist Angela Davis is shown above the entrance to the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct, unoccupied on June 8, and now surrounded by streets reopened for pedestrians that form an area called the “Capitol Busy Protest” zone. (CHOP) in Seattle, Washington on June 12, 2020.

Jason Redmond / Getty

After the police largely abandoned the East Precinct building, protesters took over the area, with protesters painting a large “Black Lives Matter” mural on the street, handing out free food, playing music, and planting a community garden. Their existence angered Mr. Trump, who criticized Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Washington Governor Jay Inslee, both Democrats.

Peace has prevailed during the day. On Monday, people rested on the grass in a park, while volunteers handed out food, water, and toiletries. The artists painted designs on wooden barricades and some candles burned in front of a sign in the police compound that listed the people killed by the police.

At night, however, the atmosphere becomes more charged, with protesters marching and openly armed volunteer guards watching. Lawsuits include calls to transfer funds for the police to community health or other causes of social justice.

Durkan said he planned to announce a plan to address public safety in the area.

“After days of peaceful protests, two nights of shootings have clearly escalated the situation on Capitol Hill,” Durkan’s office said in a statement. “We have met with residents and small business owners to address their safety and disorder concerns, including the ability of first responders to access emergencies in the area … As many community groups are also urging, (the) mayor believes that People can and should demonstrate peacefully, but the message cannot be lost in violence. “

Volunteer doctors within the area took victims of Saturday’s shooting to the hospital instead of waiting for police and fire departments, who were preparing to respond before entering.

Protesters who marched to the Western District Police Center building were returning to the area when the shooting occurred Sunday night, police said. The 17-year-old was treated and released from the hospital and did not want to speak to police, the department said. The researchers urged anyone with information to come forward.

Capitol Hill Busy Protest - Seattle, Washington
An aerial view of a Black Lives Matter mural is seen on East Pine Street near Cal Anderson Park during ongoing Black Lives Matter events on June 14, 2020 in Seattle, Washington.

David Ryder / Getty