UPDATED – More than 30 people were arrested early Wednesday morning as Seattle police acting on an emergency order from embattled Mayor Jenny Durkan moved into the so-called Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) zone and ordered protesters out following three weeks of trouble ending with a nine-day stretch that included five shootings, two of them fatal.
Police reclaimed the East Precinct headquarters, which had been the focal point of protests that originally led to the CHOP occupation.
The order came two days after protesters left the CHOP zone to march on Durkan’s home with Socialist City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant in the crowd. In a letter to Council President Lorena Gonzalez, the mayor requested an investigation of Sawant’s activities including the allegation that Sawant “lead a march to my home.”
The CHOP occupation started June 8, an offshoot of protests that began in Seattle and other major cities in reaction to the death of George Floyd while being restrained by Minneapolis, MN police. Seattle experienced a riot, several days of demonstrations and finally the occupation of a six-block area in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood that included the police department’s East Precinct. Officers were ordered to abandon the building, but on July 1 they took it back with a show of force that included armored vehicles and scores of officers in full riot gear.
Due to ongoing violence and public safety issues in the East Precinct/Cal Anderson Park area. Mayor Jenny Durkan has issued an executive order to vacate the area. Seattle police will be in the area this morning enforcing the Mayor’s order. https://t.co/SpVRYIB8eg pic.twitter.com/JAt2AvUTCr
— Seattle Police Dept. (@SeattlePD) July 1, 2020
What brought an end to the occupation were two fatal shootings, one that claimed the life of a 19-year-old and the other in which a 16-year-old was killed. Both were black.
As police moved in starting at 5 a.m., they announced that “Anyone who remains in the area, or returns to the area, is subject to arrest.”
In a Twitter message, police noted, “Since demonstrations at the East Precinct area began on June 8, 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.”
One protest organizer, interviewed on KING as police set up a perimeter, declared, “What you’ve just seen is SPD showing force again acknowledging why we do need to abolish them. They see peaceful protesters sleeping in tents and react like this. THOUSANDS of officers are here right now.”
But Police Chief Carmen Best’s account seemed to refute that. She said SPD officers were supported by officers from nearby Bellevue and agents from the FBI. The CHOP area is closed and Best said.
The chief did not immediately provide any details on the arrests, or whether police had seized any of the firearms known to have been carried by so-called “CHOP security” personnel, some of whom were apparently involved in the fatal shooting early June 29.
Best told reporters “Enough is enough!” She said she supports peaceful protest and the advancement of Black Lives Matter.
The source of those firearms has raised alarms among local Second Amendment activists who saw a short video of a CHOP organizer handing at least one AR-15 type rifle to an unidentified man in clear violation of state law as provided by Initiative 1639, adopted in 2018 with huge support from Seattle voters.
KCPQ reporter Brandi Kruse, who had covered the occupation since the beginning and reported about the violence—while city officials seemed in denial—commented as the operation wound down that at least two members of the city council, Sawant and Gonzalez, “refused to acknowledge reality” of the shootings and other crime “when reality is plainly in front of their face.” She ripped Gonzalez for blaming the shootings on “unscrupulous gun dealers.”
She also accused officials of “gross mischaracterization of the situation.”
As of Wednesday morning, it appeared the situation had been crystal clarified.
Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously reported George Floyd died in Milwaukee, Wis. He died in Minneapolis. We regret the error.