SEATTLE (AP) – Faced with increasing pressure to tackle an ‘occupied’ protest zone after two weekend shootings, Seattle Mayor said on Monday that officials will move to take down the block-long city streets taken two weeks ago. wrapping. Donald Trump claimed it is run by ‘anarchists’.
Mayor Jenny Durkan said the violence diverted from the changes that thousands of peaceful protesters are pursuing and opposed to racial inequality and police brutality. She said at a news conference that the city is working with the community to end the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest”, or CHOP, zone and that the police would soon return to a building they had largely in the area leave.
Durkan has also vowed to meet some of the demonstrators’ demands, including investing more in black communities, reshaping police work in partnership with community leaders, and pushing for accountability and reforming police unions across the state.
The mayor did not provide an immediate timeline for occupation cleanup, but said “additional steps” would be explored if people do not leave voluntarily. With dozens of people camping in a park in the protest zone, Durkan said peaceful demonstrations could continue, but the nighttime disturbance had to stop.
“The cumulative impact of the meetings and protests and the nighttime atmosphere and violence have created increasingly difficult conditions for our businesses and residents,” said Durkan. “The impact has increased and safety has decreased.”
A Sunday night shooting was the second in less than 48 hours on the edge of the zone, which is named after the Capitol Hill neighborhood near downtown Seattle and emerged during national protests over the murder of George Floyd by police from Minneapolis.
The 17-year-old victim was shot in the arm and refused to speak to detectives, police said. Gunfire killed an 19-year-old man early on Saturday and injured another person.
The victims were taken to a hospital by private doctors in private cars, and police said they were met by a hostile crowd that prevented them from arriving immediately.
It was not clear whether the shootings had anything to do with the protest – gunshots sometimes occur nearby, especially on hot summer nights.
Protesters cordoned off the multi-block area near the East Precinct police station after the Seattle riot squads released tear gas, pepper spray, and flashing bangs to large crowds of mostly peaceful protesters, convicted by many city leaders and a federal court order that temporarily banned the use of weapons on demonstrators.
After police largely left the building, protesters took over the area – with protesters painting a large “Black Lives Matter” mural on the street, distributing free food, playing music, and creating a community garden. Its existence infuriated Trump, who criticized Durkan and Washington Governor Jay Inslee, both Democrats.
There is peace during the day. On Monday, people lounged on the turf in a park, while volunteers distributed food, water, and toiletries. Artists painted designs on wooden barricades and a few candles burned in front of a sign on the police building with a list of people murdered by officers.
At night, however, the atmosphere is more charged, with protesters marching and armed volunteer guards keeping watch.
“Because they’re not with the police here, people are free to do whatever they want to do,” said Bobby Stills, a Seattle resident who spent time volunteering in the protest zone. “You never know who’s going to show up. That’s why the people here are so alert: they don’t know who’s who or what what or what their intentions are.”
Durkan, who has faced calls from protesters and even some city councilors to resign from her handling of the demonstrations, and police chief Carmen Best said they did not immediately have a timeline for sending agents back to the East Precinct that was created to better respond to emergency calls in the city’s historically black district. They said that officers would return safely and in the near future. Most notably, other crimes were reported in or near the protest zone, including rape, arson, and burglary.
Protesters marched to West Precinct police station returned to the zone when the shooting took place on Sunday evening, police said.
Andre Taylor, founder of the anti-police shooting organization Not This Time! After his brother was murdered by the Seattle police in 2016, he said on Monday that he had warned protest organizers that the city should recapture the area because of the violence.
“That CHOP area is attracting this kind of activity and it is unsafe,” Taylor said in a Facebook video. “I said to them,” All those people who supported you, they will run away from you, especially all those whites who followed you. … They don’t want to be associated with any part of that violence. ‘
Former US representative Dave Reichert, a republican who previously served as a sheriff in the county where Seattle is based, also called on the city to take back control.
“Elected officials have taken the rule of law and sworn to protect and defend our communities,” he wrote in an opinion piece for Washington State Wire, a website dedicated to state political news. “They have abandoned their law-abiding citizens and have been bullied to surrender the East Precinct – and several city blocks.”
Associate Press photographer Ted Warren in Seattle contributed.
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