At least 31 people have been arrested at Seattle’s Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) zone, after Mayor Jenny Durkan demanded the area be cleared. Police officers showed up at the crack of dawn, many wearing helmets and wielding batons and rifles. They tore down encampments and used bicycles as a fence to herd the protestors away.
The reason? There have been two deadly shootings involving teenagers in the CHOP, where crime is said to have risen by over 500% in just the last few weeks. Mayor Durkin has referred to the gathering of protestors as an “unlawful assembly.” She ordered all barriers be removed from the area early Wednesday morning.
Teen Deaths Spark Move
The CHOP protest zone was initially home to peaceful protesters. However, according to local reports, six people have been shot in the area — including the two who were killed — over the last 12 days.
The first killing in the CHOP zone occurred on June 20, when 19-year-old Lorenzo Anderson was gunned down. Then, this past Monday, 16-year-old Antonio Mays, Jr. was shot and killed; witnesses say he was shot in his Jeep by the area’s armed security after his vehicle hit a barrier in the police-free zone. A 14-year-old boy was also severely wounded in that shooting.
CHOP was created by activists calling for racial justice in response to the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. Protesters have been occupying several city blocks, including those in front of the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct, ever since SPD abandoned the building after clashing with protestors.
An eyewitness speaking to the Daily Mail said, “The Seattle Police Department basically reclaimed the precinct in less than 30 minutes, five feet at a time with the bicycle officers out front.”
The Guardian reports that residents of the neighborhood watched the police activity from their balconies. People saw officers clearing out tents and checking public bathrooms in the area for stragglers. The Guardian says at one point there was a loud bang, followed by smoke.
Seattle police chief Carmen Best spoke outside the precinct this morning and said although officers had reclaimed the precinct, she did not know when they would move back in. Best said she supports Black Lives Matter and peaceful demonstration, but, she said, “What has happened on these streets over the last two weeks is lawless and it’s brutal and bottom line it is simply unacceptable.”
Below is video the Seattle police released showing the violence in the CHOP zone. WARNING: The footage may be disturbing.