‘Enough is enough:’ SPD takes back East Precinct, dismantles CHOP
Seattle police officers officially dismantled the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) early Wednesday morning, reclaiming the area around the East Precinct and dispersing protesters.
Officers were flanked by tactical vehicles, adorned in riot gear, and brandishing batons. After arriving around 5 a.m., they warned protesters to disassemble or face arrest, as well as the possible use of chemical weapons.
Police initially approached from the northern barricades on 12th Avenue. They used bicycles to force the crowd back roughly five feet at a time, removing tents and wood barricades along their way before completely overtaking the East Precinct area.
This comes as part of an emergency executive order issued overnight by Mayor Jenny Durkan, declaring the CHOP an “unlawful assembly.” SPD reports at least 32 arrests so far this morning for “failure to disperse, obstruction, resisting arrest, and assault.”
SPD Chief Carmen Best spoke to assembled media shortly after police took back the area.
“I support peaceful demonstrations; Black lives matter, and I too want to propel this movement forward … but enough is enough,” she stated. “What has happened here on these streets the last few weeks is lawless, brutal, and simply unacceptable.”
Chief Best also noted that she’s not sure when exactly the East Precinct will officially be open, as police still need to move in and inspect the building.
— Hanna Scott (@HannaKIROFM) July 1, 2020
Voicing support for Chief Best Wednesday was Attorney General William Barr, who said that the CHOP “undermines the very rule-of-law principles that the protesters profess to defend.”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany also addressed the CHOP.
“I’m pleased to inform everyone that Seattle has been liberated,” she said during a briefing on Wednesday.
SPD has East Pike Street blocked off to protesters between Broadway and 13th Avenue, as well as 11th Avenue between Pike and East Olive Street. Residents of the neighborhood have been told they can come and go.
KIRO Radio’s Hanna Scott reports that demonstrators camped out in Cal Anderson Park have been peacefully cleared out as well.
Seattle Department of Transportation workers have been working to clear out remaining barricades and other debris, as well as setting up new concrete barriers around the East Precinct building. The city’s Human Services Department is also on the scene offering assistance for storing personal possessions found in the area.
According to KTTH’s Jason Rantz, SPD’s bomb squad — as well as bomb-sniffing dogs — did a sweep through tents.
He also reports that organizers “are supposedly regrouping and coming up with a plan to possibly try to come back into the CHOP.” Police have made it clear they intend to arrest any demonstrators who attempt to re-enter the area.
The precinct has been empty since Monday, June 8. That night, protesters marched into City Hall with Councilmember Kshama Sawant at the lead.
The building quickly became the cornerstone of the CHAZ (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone), which later changed names to CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupied Protest).
Since its inception, there have been four shootings at or near the CHOP. A 19-year-old man died last weekend and a 16-year-old boy died on Monday. At least four others have been injured in those four shootings, including a 14-year-old boy.
In an afternoon press conference, Mayor Durkan and Chief Best provided an update on the morning’s actions to clear the CHOP area. Both fielded questions in regards to the potential for protesters to return to the area, to which they responded that they support the first amendment rights and freedom of speech, but cannot and will not condone violence or lawlessness at any time, in any part of the city.
The mayor’s executive order remains in place for 10 days, as crews will continue to clean up the area and provide support services to those in need.
Representatives from SDOT, Parks and Recreation, and the Human Services Department spoke Wednesday to the work of their crews in the area. Both SDOT and Parks and Recreation said the art created in the CHOP is being preserved. Some artwork has been moved to a secure, offsite location until the city and the community determines how it can be repurposed and shared.
Durkan reiterated that she is committed working with community to create “true, lasting, and generational change.”