Seattle police on Wednesday moved in to reclaim their precinct in the city’s ‘occupied’ protest zone after the mayor issued a 2am executive order to vacate the area.
More than a dozen people were arrested at the zone which has seen two deadly shootings in three weeks, Q13Fox reports.
Mayor Jenny Durkan had demanded all barriers be removed from the city’s ‘occupied’ protest zone after a 525 per cent spike in violent crimes in the area. Calling the gathering at the East Precinct and Cal Anderson Park an ‘unlawful assembly’ Mayor Durkan issued a Proclamation of Civil Emergency.
People have occupied several blocks around a park and the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct for about two weeks. Police abandoned the building following clashes with protesters calling for an end to police brutality.
Seattle police confirmed in a tweet early Wednesday that they would be ‘in the area this morning enforcing the Mayor’s order’.
Officers in riot gear are said to have issued a dispersal order at 5am leading to dozens of arrests.
Police said: ‘Since demonstrations at the East Precinct area began on June 8th, 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.
‘Because suspects in recent shootings may still be in the area, and because numerous people in the area are in possession of firearms, Seattle Police officers involved in this morning’s response will be equipped with additional protective gear.’
Chief Carmen Best said: ‘The CHOP has become lawless and brutal. Four shootings–-two fatal—robberies, assaults, violence and countless property crimes have occurred in this several block area.’
Crews had used heavy equipment Tuesday to remove makeshift barriers around the the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) zone following two fatal shootings in the area.
Demonstrators dragged couches and other items to replace the structures. But those were largely gone later Tuesday.
Seattle police Assistant Chief Adrian Diaz said the large, makeshift barriers would be removed in incremental steps to allow traffic to move through portions of a road that had been closed off.
‘So far, you know, everything is peaceful this morning, so that’s a good sign,’ Diaz told The Seattle Times.
Cement barricades that remained in front of the Seattle Police Department East Precinct building Tuesday were fortified by protesters with chunks of concrete and tarps.
There have been increasing calls by critics, including President Donald Trump, to remove protesters from the ‘Capitol Hill Occupied Protest’ area east of downtown following the fatal shooting Monday of a 16-year-old boy and the June 20 killing of a 19-year-old man.
Protesters say they should not be blamed for the violence in the area. People continued to add artwork, flowers and candles at a memorial for the 16-year-old on Tuesday.
Police Chief Carmen Best has said the shootings are obscuring the message of racial justice promoted by protesters.
Nearby businesses and property owners filed a federal lawsuit against the city last week, saying officials have been too tolerant of those who created the zone and that officials have deprived property owners of their property rights by allowing the zone to continue existing.
The clips, taken in the early hours of a Monday morning, show the bullet ridden vehicle in the moments after gunfire broke out
Protesters stand on barricades a block away as Seattle Department of Transportation workers remove other barricades at the intersection of 10th Ave. and Pine St., Tuesday
Demonstrators have occupied several blocks around the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct and a park for about two weeks
Also Tuesday, Mayor Jenny Durkan asked the City Council to investigate council member Kshama Sawant, accusing her of opening City Hall to protesters on June 9 and participating in a protest march to Durkan’s home on Sunday.
‘She and organizers knew that my address was protected under the state confidentiality program because of threats against me due largely to my work as U.S. attorney,’ Durkan wrote.
Sawant said she had not organized the march and wasn’t taking Durkan’s words personally, The Seattle Times reported.
‘In reality, this is an attack on working people’s movements, and everything we are fighting for, by a corporate politician desperately looking to distract from her failures of leadership and politically bankrupt administration,’ Sawant said in a statement.
Earlier this month Sawant and other council members called on the mayor to resign over what they called the Police Department’s militaristic response to protests. Durkan has said she will not resign.