Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said Monday that the city will begin dismantling the “autonomous zone” set up downtown by protesters, citing incidents of violence in the zone.
“The cumulative impacts of the gatherings and protests and the nighttime atmosphere and violence has led to increasingly difficult circumstances for our businesses and residents,” Durkan said at a news conference. “The impacts have increased and the safety has decreased.”
“We have to make sure that any resident, any business, or any visitor that calls for help gets the help they need,” Durkan said.
Protesters barricaded off the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone, or CHOP, an area of several blocks in the city’s downtown Capitol Hill neighborhood, earlier this month after police abandoned their East Precinct building. Police have agreed not to respond to calls from within the zone unless they are life-threatening.
Seattle police will peacefully return to the East Precinct building soon, the mayor said, a message echoed by Police Chief Carmen Best.
“There should be no place in Seattle that the Seattle Fire Department and the Seattle Police Department can’t go,” Durkan said.
Best added that the police department is committed to improving the relationship between police and the community.
“We all know that policing is never going to be the same as it was,” Best said. “It can’t be. And it shouldn’t be.”
“We cannot move forward as a community, as a city, or as a police department unless all of us work together,” the police chief added.
Durkan previously predicted the autonomous zone would usher in a “summer of love” and said that her decision to withdraw police from the area reflected her “trust” in protesters.
Police responded to a second shooting in Seattle’s “autonomous zone” that occurred late Sunday night, the second shooting inside the zone in just two days. A shooting on Saturday in the zone left a 19-year-old dead and another critically injured. Police said they were met by a violent crowd that blocked their access to the victims on Saturday.
President Trump has criticized Seattle’s Democratic mayor as well as Washington Governor Jay Inslee, also a Democrat, over the zone, saying it is run by “anarchists.”
Last week, Portland police quickly dismantled another “autonomous zone” that protesters attempted to set up outside the mayor’s residence in the city the previous night.