Seattle mayor: City will reclaim police-free 'autonomous zone'

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan argued that police needed to be in the area to respond to reported crimes


By Lauren Theisen
New York Daily News

SEATTLE — CHAZ’s days are numbered.

The city of Seattle announced on Monday that it would be taking steps to dismantle the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone — six blocks of occupied streets that have served as a particularly visible and controversial aspect of the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests of the past several weeks. After clashes between police and protesters drove law enforcement out of the city’s East Precinct, hundreds of people took to gathering in CHAZ in an attempt to build a peaceful, police-free community.

People walk amidst barricades in what has been named the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
People walk amidst barricades in what has been named the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The occupation has garnered plenty of attention, both positive and negative, but Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a Monday press conference that enough was enough.

“It’s time for people to go home. It is time for us to restore Cal Anderson and Capitol Hill so it can be a vibrant part of the community,” she said. “We can still accommodate people who want to protest peacefully, come there and gather. But the impacts on the businesses and residents and community are now too much.”

While acknowledging the peaceful nature of the protests, Durkan also argued that police needed to be in the area to respond to reported crimes. Over the weekend, two separate shootings in CHAZ killed a 19-year-old man and injured two other people, possibly spurring Durkan’s new plan.

Though the mayor did not give a specific timeline for when people would be removed from CHAZ, she said it would be done “peacefully” and “in the near future.” She also claimed that the city would work with black-led organizations to communicate and reach out to those who did not leave the area voluntarily.

“I think we’ve seen across the country and Seattle, it would not be an effective strategy to simply send police in to try to clear the area,” Durkan said.

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