SEATTLE (AP) – Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan met protesters on Friday after some were out on the street or on barricades to thwart the city’s attempt to dismantle an ‘occupied’ protest area that has sparked contempt of President Donald Trump and a lawsuit from nearby companies.
Crews arrived at the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, an occupied protest zone in Seattle, with heavy equipment early on Friday morning, ready to break down the barriers set up after protesters captured the area on June 8 after clashes with police. But by mid-morning, they seemed to have withdrawn rather than risk a conflict.
Omari Salisbury, a local journalist who attended the afternoon meeting between protesters and the mayor, subsequently told reporters that the mayor had agreed to wait until Sunday morning to clear most of the barricades.
A spokesman said the mayor met with the black ministers and some organizers late on Friday and suggested “steps she believes could be taken in the coming days, including removing the barriers to greater access.” Seattle police had no plans to return to a nearby district this weekend that was abandoned after clashes with protesters, Durkan spokesman said.
The collective of protesters, activists, educators, and volunteers in the CHOP was formed after clashes with police gassed people protesting the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis.
Durkan expressed support for the protest, calling it “a peaceful expression of the collective grief of our community and their desire to build a better world.”
But after several shootings in the area, Durkan said earlier this week that the city would wind down the protest zone, initially by encouraging protesters to leave. In addition, she had said that the police would return to the nearby district.
Nearby businesses and property owners filed a federal lawsuit against the city on Wednesday over the zone’s tolerance, saying that officials were complicit in denying their rights to their property.
The companies said they had no intention of undermining the protest’s anti-police violence or Black Lives Matter message. But they said they had limited access to their businesses and were sometimes threatened with photographing protesters in public areas or cleaning up graffiti on their storefronts.
Work crews planned to clear the barricades on Friday, not the remaining protesters. City Transport Director Sam Zimbabwe told Salisbury, who streamed the protest live.
Workers kept works of art painted on the wooden barricades, Zimbabwe said, adding that the department would work to return it to the people who made it.
“We try not to have conflicts,” he said.
A number of protesters continued to camp in tents outside the East Precinct; Durkan said the barricades protecting them from traffic would continue even after the other barriers were removed on Sunday, Salisbury said. The city has not given a timetable for officers’ return to the building, except to say that it would be in the near future.
Protesters want the lifting of legal protection known as “qualified immunity” for police violating citizens’ rights – an issue that should be addressed in state law, not by the city. The protesters have also called for the Seattle police budget to be cut by 50% and the savings to be spent on public health and other programs. The mayor has proposed a much more modest $ 20 million cut to balance the city budget by the end of this year.
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.