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Thursday, June 25, 2020

June 25, 2020

Seattle’s mayor says she wants to take back an “occupied” protest area in which three people have been shot.

Jenny Dunkan said on Monday that the shootings had been a distraction amid campaigners’ demands to end police violence and institutionalised racism.

Authorities will work with protesters to dismantle the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), which has been occupied since 8 June following violent clashes with police.

The decision comes some two weeks after US president Donald Trump alleged that Seattle was overrun with “anarchists” despite most protesters supporting the Black Lives Matter movement after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody on 25 May.

Mayor Durkan, who has since been pressured to end the protest zone, announced on Monday that Seattle’s police department would return to its precinct “peacefully and in the near future”.

“The cumulative impacts of the gatherings and protests and the night-time atmosphere and violence,” she said, “has led to increasingly difficult circumstances for our businesses and residents.

“The impacts have increased and the safety has decreased.”

The mayor did not state an immediate timeline to end the protest zone, but said “additional steps” would be considered in the case that people do not leave on their own will.

Whilst peaceful demonstrations can continue, said the mayor, overnight disorder had to stop.

A shooting on Sunday night was the second within 48 hours at the Capitol Hill protest zone, in the city’s downtown.

The 17-year-old victim, who was shot in the arm, declined to speak with police.

Another shooting on Saturday left a 19-year-old man dead and another person with critical wounds.

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said on Monday that “hostile crowd[s]” had hampered emergency services efforts to reach the shooting victims, who were instead taken to hospital by volunteer medics in private cars.

She added that rapes, assaults, burglaries and vandalism had also been reported around the protest area since police abandoned the precinct.

Mayor Durkan had told CNN earlier this month that she did not know when authorities would reclaim the zone, and said: “I don’t know, we could have the summer of love!”

Protest leaders in Seattle had been warned that violence would lead to authorities dismantling the demonstration zone, said Andre Taylor, who founded the anti-police-shooting organisation Not This Time! after his brother was killed by Seattle police in 2016.

“That CHOP area is attracting this kind of activity and it’s unsafe,” said Taylor on Facebook. “I told them, ‘All those people that were supporting you guys, they’re going to start walking away from you, especially all those white people that were following you. ... They don’t want to be associated with any part of that violence.”