Protest zone cleared

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAY GREENE, MARK BER­MAN AND BEN GUARINO jay.greene@wash­ mark.ber­man@wash­ ben.guarino@wash­ Ber­man re­ported from Wash­ing­ton. Guarino re­ported from New York.

Seattle po­lice re­took what had been the site of peace­ful gath­er­ings but also at­tacks on demon­stra­tors.

SEATTLE — Seattle po­lice moved early Wed­nes­day to clear a protest zone that drew na­tional at­ten­tion and had been marred by mul­ti­ple shoot­ings, in­clud­ing one that killed a teenager early in the week.

Po­lice said they took ac­tion after Mayor Jenny Durkan (D) is­sued an ex­ec­u­tive or­der call­ing for the area to be va­cated, aim­ing to end the weeks-long oc­cu­pa­tion around a po­lice precinct. Of­fi­cers made dozens of ar­rests as they car­ried out her di­rec­tive, they said, and warned that any­one who re­mained in the area or re­turned to it could be taken into cus­tody.

As demon­stra­tions against po­lice vi­o­lence and racial in­jus­tice spread across the coun­try in the wake of Ge­orge Floyd’s killing in Min­neapo­lis, the sit­u­a­tion in Seattle took shape in a way dis­tinct from other protests. Ac­tivists took over an area in Seattle’s Capi­tol Hill neigh­bor­hood that would be­come a scene of peace­ful gath­er­ings but also tense face­offs with po­lice and vi­o­lence vis­ited on demon­stra­tors.

The oc­cu­pa­tion was re­peat­edly high­lighted on ca­ble news, and Pres­i­dent Trump has tweeted about it, de­cry­ing the demon­stra­tors and the lo­cal and state lead­ers re­spond­ing to them. Ac­tivists have said that me­dia cov­er­age has fo­cused only on the vi­o­lence rather than the calmer aspects, which in­cluded doc­u­men­tary screen­ings and con­certs.

Durkan, at a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, said com­ments by the pres­i­dent and his administra­tion were un­help­ful and made the sit­u­a­tion “more volatile.”

But gun­fire in the area known as the Capi­tol Hill Oc­cu­pied Protest, or CHOP, had in­creased scru­tiny on the gath­er­ing. (The re­gion has also been called the Capi­tol Hill Au­ton­o­mous Zone, or CHAZ.) In the lat­est in­ci­dent, po­lice said that a 16-year-old was killed and a 14-year-old wounded in a shoot­ing early Mon­day at or near the bar­ri­ers sur­round­ing the zone.

Seattle Po­lice Chief Car­men Best is­sued a state­ment early Wed­nes­day say­ing that she sup­ports peace­ful protests and would con­tinue her de­part­ment’s work to en­gage with ac­tivists.

“But enough is enough,” 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. My job, and the job of our of­fi­cers, is to pro­tect and serve our com­mu­nity.”

The White House praised the zone’s elim­i­na­tion Wed­nes­day, and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam P. Barr said vi­o­lence in the area had un­der­mined “the very rule-of-law prin­ci­ples that the pro­test­ers pro­fess to de­fend.”

“The mes­sage of to­day’s ac­tion is sim­ple but sig­nif­i­cant: the Con­sti­tu­tion pro­tects the right to speak and as­sem­ble freely, but it pro­vides no right to com­mit vi­o­lence or defy the law, and such con­duct has no place in a free so­ci­ety gov­erned by law,” Barr said in a state­ment.

Po­lice of­fi­cials headed into the zone early Wed­nes­day, wear­ing pro­tec­tive gear be­cause peo­ple there were “known to be armed and dan­ger­ous,” the de­part­ment said. About 100 of­fi­cers took part in clear­ing the zone.

They made three dozen ar­rests Wed­nes­day, po­lice said, de­scrib­ing the cases as in­volv­ing fail­ure to dis­perse, re­sist­ing ar­rest, ob­struc­tion and as­sault. One man, they said, had a pipe and knife on him when he was ar­rested. Po­lice said they planned to con­tinue ask­ing peo­ple to leave the area and would keep ar­rest­ing any­one who did not co­op­er­ate.

“After walk­ing through the area, I was stunned by the amount of graf­fiti, garbage and prop­erty de­struc­tion,” Best told re­porters Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.

Durkan called for charges to be dis­missed against those who were ar­rested for al­leged mis­de­meanors, such as tres­pass­ing or ob­struc­tion. The mayor also said the Seattle parks and arts de­part­ments would pre­serve a com­mu­nity gar­den and art­work and mu­rals pro­test­ers cre­ated within the zone.

By mid­morn­ing Wed­nes­day, the jour­nal­ists at the scene seemed to out­num­ber the demon­stra­tors gath­ered un­der the gray sky on the cool, soggy day.

Of­fi­cers stood lin­ing the area’s perime­ter and had bi­cy­cles block­ing the road­way in the hours after they first made their ap­proach. A crowd of maybe two dozen peo­ple re­mained in the area by mid­morn­ing, some protest­ing and some ap­pear­ing to just watch the scene.

One demon­stra­tor, who was not wear­ing a mask, shouted at peo­ple, “Do not en­gage!” A young man, also not wear­ing a mask, screamed, “No more po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers!” A third moved to within a few feet of po­lice, yelled an ob­scen­ity and told the of­fi­cers, “You are not pro­tect­ing the peo­ple.”

Po­lice did not re­spond. Durkan’s or­der de­scribed ways in which she said the city had fa­cil­i­tated demon­stra­tions — in­clud­ing by mod­i­fy­ing streets and ac­cess routes for pedes­tri­ans and al­low­ing ob­struc­tions of pub­lic streets and side­walks — but also said con­di­tions had wors­ened, de­scrib­ing other shoot­ings, “nu­mer­ous re­ports of nar­cotics use and vi­o­lent crime,” and dam­age to prop­erty in the area.

As the small crowd lin­gered in the area, ve­hi­cles pulled bar­ri­ers away. Some of the ve­hi­cles rum­bled down wet road­ways, pass­ing a spot where some­one had used pink spray-paint to write on the street:



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