Seattle’s Protest “Autonomous Zone” Cleared
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For weeks, Seattle officials have been scratching their heads of what to do about a protest zone set up near downtown that became the scene of several shootings and a war of words between city leaders and President Trump: Close it down or support is as an exercise in populist democracy? The decision: Tear it down.
On Wednesday, riot police squads and several pieces of heavy machinery reached the spot. The so-called Capital Hill Organized Protest area was swept through by the police in the early-morning hours. They faced little opposition as they pulled aside the barricaded. They arrested protesters and retook the police station they had abandoned several weeks earlier.
Carmen Best, the city’s police chief, said as police officers re-entered the East Precinct station and set up formidable lines outside, “Our job is to support peaceful demonstrations.” She added, “What has happened here on these streets over the last two weeks — few weeks, that is — is lawless, and it’s brutal, and bottom line, it is simply unacceptable.”
Mayor Jenny Durkan gave a news conference on Wednesday. She urged the police to avoid filing criminal charges against anyone arrested in the zone for failure to disperse or other misdemeanors. She said the city was forced to act because of the repeated episodes of violence. Seattle’s largely progressive leadership sought to find a common ground with the protestors.
The protestors were demanding an end to the disparate and sometimes violent treatment of African-Americans by the police, in part because of the city’s own recent history. After the Department of Justice accused the police of biasing and excessive force in 2012, the city committed to sweeping police reforms. In 2018, Ms. Best became its first Black female police chief.