Protesters in Seattle have cordoned off a large section of the city and they’re not leaving.
Demonstrators seized an area surrounding an abandoned police precinct and declared it a “cop-free” zone. The city abandoned the police precinct on Monday in order to ease tensions with the protesters, but the group of protesters quickly took advantage of the lack of police presence and occupied the area. Now, the area is cordoned off entirely with roadblocks and armed guards are roaming the entrances. The group that seized the are has dubbed it the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, also known as CHAZ.
Police were ordered to abandon the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct following days of violent clashes with protesters over the recent death of George Floyd. In a video statement to her officers, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said she was angry about the way the situation is unfolding. “You should know,” she said, “leaving the precinct was not my decision.”
Seattle police officers held the building against protests for several days while protesters pelted them glass bottles, rocks, and even explosives. Officers were further restricted in their response to the violence because the city had previously banned them from using tear gas. Chief Best blamed the city for giving in to “severe public pressure” for its decision to abandon the area around the East Precinct. “You fought for days to protect (The East Precinct). I asked you to stand on that line. Day in and day out, to be pelted with projectiles, to be screamed at, threatened, and in some cases hurt. Then to have a change of course nearly two weeks in, It seems like an insult to you and our community,” she said. 25 Seattle police officers have been injured since the so-called peaceful protests began.
Since the police left the area, the scene has developed into a nightmare for residents. People who live in the so-called Autonomous Zone are forced to show groups of AR-15-wielding guards their IDs before they’re allowed to enter the neighborhoods. Reports have also begun to surface that armed groups of protesters are extorting local businesses and stopping people on the street to demand they produce identification. The police have urged anyone who has encountered this type of behavior to dial 911, but the city has all but barred local police from entering the area.
President Trump blasted Seattle’s radical left government for abandoning the city to the uprising. On Wednesday, Trump took to Twitter to demand “LAW & ORDER” in Seattle and criticized local politicians for their handling of the fiasco. “Domestic Terrorists have taken over Seattle, run by Radical Left Democrats, of course.” Trump also addressed the unrest in an exclusive interview with Fox News’ Harris Faulkner. “If there were more toughness, you wouldn’t have the kind of devastation that you had in Minneapolis and in Seattle,” said Trump.
Trump centered his criticisms at Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan – both Democrats – and called on them to regain control of the situation. “Radical Left Governor @JayInslee and the Mayor of Seattle are being taunted and played at a level that our great Country has never seen before. Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will,” Trump wrote. “This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stopped IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST
As of Thursday morning, the group in control of the Autonomous Zone has no official leaders, which has complicated negotiation efforts. The group recently posted a 30-point list of demands online titled “the demands of the collective black voices at Free Capitol Hill to the government of Seattle, Washington”. The number one item on the list: “We demand that the Seattle Council and the Mayor defund and abolish the Seattle Police Department and the attached Criminal Justice Apparatus.” The demonstrators also tacked on a few wish-list items like “free college for the people of the state of Washington” and the “de-gentrification of Seattle”
It’s not clear whether the city will be willing to entertain any of the group’s ambitious list of demands, but the police and protesters involved directly with the stand-off say there’s no end in sight.