Seattle Police Clear Autonomous Zone After Mayor Declares Unlawful Assembly
Seattle officials are finally clearing the so-called autonomous zone after weeks of refusing to use force to do so.
Police officers equipped with protective gear began clearing tents and barricades at the zone in the Capitol Hill neighborhood early Wednesday, arresting at least 13 people who refused to comply with the order to disperse.
They were enforcing an edict from Mayor Jenny Durkan. See the full order at the bottom of the article.
Durkan, a Democrat, declared the occupation of the area an “unlawful assembly.”
“The City’s obligations under the First Amendment do not require the City to provide limitless sanctuary to occupy City property, damage City and private property, obstruct the right of way, or foster dangerous conditions,” an executive order made public on Wednesday stated.
The order notes shootings that took place in and around the zone. Two teenagers have been shot dead, including a 16-year-old early Monday.
Some of the occupiers left the zone in recent days but others refused to depart, insisting the city would need to meet their numerous demands first.
Officers arrived on the scene around 5 a.m. and told occupiers they had to leave within eight minutes, the Seattle Police Department said in a statement.
The zone is also known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP).
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said she supports peaceful demonstrations “but enough is enough.”
“The CHOP has become lawless and brutal. Four shootings—two fatal—robberies, assaults, violence and countless property crimes have occurred in this several block area,” she said in a statement.
“My job, and the job of our officers, is to protect and serve our community.”
Warning: Video contains violent scenes.
According to statistics from the department, 65 criminal incidents took place and were reported to authorities in the area from June 8 to June 30. That was an increase from 37 in the previous year.
The department released a video compilation of several violent events that unfolded inside CHOP.
Some of the officers responding to the zone, which encompasses an abandoned police precinct, will be equipped with a higher level of protective gear, Best said. Photographs and video footage showed officers in riot gear clearing the area.
“This equipment not meant to be a preemptive show of force. Police are utilizing this equipment because individuals associated with the CHOP area are known to be armed and dangerous, and who may be associated with active shootings, homicides, robberies, assaults, and other violent crimes,” Best said.
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