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CHOP streets quieter after shootings, but protesters vow they’ll remain

The CHOP on Monday afternoon. (Nicole Jennings/KIRO Radio)

Monday was a quiet day on the streets of the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP). On the heels of two weekend shootings (and preceding a third one that would occur early Tuesday morning), the CHOP was largely empty of the crowds seen in previous days.

“These guys are doing a great job on their security, they’re trying to protect everyone here, but this violence on this camp is removing people here — they’re scared,” said Joseph Sanden, who, along with his wife, witnessed Sunday night’s Cal Anderson Park shooting from just a block away.

Sanden said he saw the shooters fire blindly into tents full of sleeping protesters, including children, before driving away.

A 19-year-old man was killed and a 33-year-old man was critically wounded in a shooting early Saturday morning. A 17-year-old was injured in Sunday night’s violence and has since been released from the hospital. A 30-year-old man was wounded in Tuesday morning’s shooting and is currently in the hospital, reportedly not in life-threatening condition.

Emma Southworth, who helps run at an artists’ coop within the CHOP, said she and her son were forced to huddle on the ground for an hour Sunday evening after gunshots were heard.

Observations from inside Seattle’s CHOP

“The shooting started, and everybody dropped, and they had everybody get down on the ground,” she said. “I had my child with me, so I had to lay on top of his body.”

Both Southworth and Sanden said they still feel safe in the CHOP during the day, but would not bring their children back after sunset.

One protester named Billie said that she didn’t feel scared to be in the CHOP because she believes the shootings are all unrelated to protesters within the area.

“I was told that it was gangs, a few different gangs, and that one of them, they consider the park their turf,” she said.

The Seattle Police Department is investigating the shootings. The motives are unclear at this time.

CHOP security was unable to confirm who was behind the shootings.

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant released a statement speculating that the Saturday morning shooting may have been a “right-wing attack,” but protester Justin Carrington with the Overthought Network said that was “completely false.”

“There’s no white supremacist anything — I mean, there is presence of white supremacists or far-right-wing groups — but as far as I know … there has been no outward knowledge of that kind,” he said. “This is a normally peaceful zone.”

Some CHOP security team members have said they are carrying concealed firearms because of threats made online from white supremacist groups. However, Carrington said none of these threats have been acted on as of yet.

CHOP reactions to Durkan’s promises

During a press conference Monday afternoon, Mayor Jenny Durkan and Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best promised to take back the East Precinct in the near future. While they said there was no date set in stone, they did say it would be a gradual, phased return.

One CHOP protester named Angelica said she did not believe the mayor’s words.

“Politicians are good at talking,” she said.

Angelica said the protesters would remain in place.

Another protester, who wanted to rename unnamed, said he fears a return to the conflicts between police and protesters that occurred nearly nightly before police left the East Precinct.

“I think things will get back to the way they were when they first started, basically, if police try to come back in here,” he said. “I think [protesters] will stand up and try to fight them off, … or stand against them and not let them in.”

Brian Culpepper, an artist displaying and selling his works in the CHOP, said the issue is not whose hands the East Precinct is in.

“That’s neither here nor there — what’s important is that Black lives matter,” he said.

The spirit of the movement, Culpepper said, will go on regardless.

“We were Black before there was a precinct there, and we’ll be Black after they leave too,” he said.

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