Seattle: Mayor, police chief threaten to end Capitol Hill protest

June 2020 Cap Hill barricade (David Ryder-Getty)

By KATIE BERLINER

It has been an eventful week for Seattle’s Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) / Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) community. After two shootings within CHOP over the weekend, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and Mayor Jenny Durkan have vowed that they will be disbanding the community-run area and re-enter the East Precinct that they abandoned two weeks ago.

During a press conference on Monday evening, Mayor Durkan drew differences between the daytime and nighttime atmospheres of CHOP, citing the fact that during the evenings there has been violence affecting the community (referring to the two shootings over the weekend). She further states that she wishes to work with the community to “bring this to an end” (See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUkV0sf7mcY ). She reported also that services would be provided to those that have set up tents in Cal Anderson Park, and suggested that people would leave the area willfully.

Chief Carmen Best spoke next, and more in depth, about the events occurring over the weekend in which three Black male victims were shot. No details as to motives or identification of the shooter(s) were given. Best used her time to falsely claim that the people in CHOP did not allow her police force to get to the victims on Saturday, when medics at CHOP had already transported the victims to Harborview, a hospital in the area. (See SPD compiled bodycam footage: https://twitter.com/spekulation/status/1275130917187547136?s=20 )

Best continued to insinuate that police were “thwarted” in saving the individual who has since passed away because of the fact that they had been prohibited from using certain crowd-control measures. “The Council legislated away officers’ access to less lethal tools,” she said, referring to Seattle City Council’s recently passed measure that would restrict the use of chemical weapons such as tear gas and pepper spray. It should be noted that this measure has not, in fact, been passed into law, as it has not been signed by Mayor Durkan.

Some members of the tent encampment at Cal Anderson Park (within the CHOP zone) have started to disperse, according to local independent reporter, Omari Salisbury. While some have gone to the Space Needle, others have moved up further in CHOP toward the East Precinct. (See: https://twitter.com/Omarisal/status/1275806903252037632?s=20)

It remains unknown what will happen with those that have stayed within Cal Anderson Park or what will happen to the community garden and mutual aid programs—food, water, medical supplies / assistance, and temporary bathrooms—that are set up within the park.

According to a self-proclaimed “official” CHOP Twitter account, the area will be reclaimed by SPD no later than early next week. (See: https://twitter.com/CHOPOfficialSEA/status/1275852376423960581?s=20). This source also confirms Salisbury’s account that individuals have dispersed from the park. However, this appears to be an account coordinated with or closely associated with the Mayor’s office as among many other anti-movement requests they ask their followers to re-elect Jenny Durkan. But what this account forgets is that there is no top-down organization of this movement. The demands have not been met and they have remained the same: 1) Defund the Police Department by 50%; 2) Invest that money in the community; and 3) No charges for protesters.

Both Durkan and Best repeatedly stressed that the community would lead the discussions around the Seattle Police Department’s future and that reclaiming the East Precinct would be a part of this process. But questions remain as to which members of the community would be included in the discussions with the mayor’s office and SPD to bring CHOP to an end? What measures would the Police Department enact to disperse the crowd if they are unwilling to leave? And will the demands of the movement be met?

Photo: David Ryder / Getty Images

 

 

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