Seattle will move to dismantle protest zone: Mayor

SEATTLE (AP) — Faced with growing pressure to crack down on an “occupied” protest zone following two weekend shootings, Seattle’s mayor said on Monday officials will move to wind down the blocks-long span of city streets taken over two weeks ago that United States (US) President Donald Trump asserted is run by “anarchists”.

Mayor Jenny Durkan said the violence was distracting from changes sought by thousands of peaceful protesters opposing racial inequity and police brutality. She said at a news conference the city is working with the community to bring the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone, or CHOP, to an end and that police soon would move back into a precinct building they had largely abandoned in the area.

Durkan also vowed to address some of the protesters’ demands, including investing more in Black communities, reimagining policing in cooperation with community leaders, and pushing for accountability measures and statewide reform of police unions.

The mayor did not give an immediate timeline for clearing out the occupation but said “additional steps” would be examined if people don’t leave voluntarily. With scores of people camping in a park in the protest zone, Durkan said peaceful demonstrations could continue, but nighttime disorder had to stop.

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

A shooting last Sunday night was the second in less than 48 hours at the edge of the zone, which is named for the Capitol Hill neighbourhood near downtown Seattle and emerged during nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

The 17-year-old victim was shot in the arm and declined to speak with detectives, police said. Gunfire early last Saturday left a 19-year-old man dead and another person critically wounded.

People walk amidst barricades in what has been named the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone in Seattle. PHOTO: AP