Seattle police on Wednesday forcefully cleared out “CHOP,” the infamous protest zone in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, after weeks of protests that culminated with two fatal shootings that forced the city’s Democrat leadership to finally act after facing weeks of mounting scrutiny.
The long-term political fallout from allowing CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupied Protest) remained to be seen. But critics said it was remarkable that a major U.S. city would allow protesters to occupy six city blocks, seal off a police precinct and reportedly not allow first responders to enter. (The city insisted the zone was never really “cop free,” as protest organizers contended.)
Shortly after police cleared the area, Faizel Khan, a business owner there, told Seattle’s KING-TV he did not believe there were any winners in the city.
“I think we’ve actually lost,” he said. “I think we’ve lost a mayor. We’ve lost a city councilperson. We’ve lost residents. We’ve lost small businesses. We’ve lost the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Mayor Jenny Durkan, a Democrat, has been assailed by both protesters and Republicans over her handling of the crisis. Critics on the right described her as an out-of-touch leader and pointed to an interview on CNN when she was asked early on about how long she anticipated the zone to be a “police-free.” She responded, “I don’t know, we could have a summer of love.”
President Trump, who has billed himself as the “law and order” option in 2020, reacted to Durkan with astonishment.
“These Liberal Dems don’t have a clue,” Trump said. “The terrorists burn and pillage our cities, and they think it is just wonderful, even the death. Must end this Seattle takeover now!”
The president’s criticism was not limited to Durkan. He also took on Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee, another Democrat, who took issue with Trump’s threat to use force in the city and said he would not allow “threats of military violence against Washingtonians coming from the White House.”
Inslee initially said Durkan and her team briefed him on the situation and said the area was “largely peaceful. Peaceful protests are fundamentally American, and I am hopeful there will be a peaceful resolution.”
Major cities across the U.S. have seen an eruption of riots and protests over the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. Trump’s first attack on city leadership was aimed at Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey over his decision to evacuate a police precinct in his city back in May.
“The symbolism of the building cannot outweigh the importance of life, our officers or the public,” he said. “We could not risk serious injury to anyone. And we will continue to patrol the Third Precinct.”
The protests over police brutality evolved into a larger movement that called on cities to make the changes required to assist minority communities and end police brutality — even if it requires defunding the police to free up the budget.
City leaders in Los Angeles voted Wednesday to slash the Los Angeles Police Department budget by $150 million, which would reduce the number of officers to a level not seen for more than a decade. On Tuesday night, the New York City Council voted to cut the NYPD budget in 2021 by $1 billion.
Durkan tweeted earlier this week that she planned to meet with Police Chief Carmen Best to conduct a “deep review of SPD’s budget” and assess “what functions could be moved to other departments or be removed entirely.”
On Monday, a 16-year-old boy was killed and another teen was listed in critical condition, in an incident that marked the fourth shooting in the CHOP area.
The first death there came June 20 when 19-year-old Horace Lorenzo Anderson was shot and killed. His father, Horace Lorenzo Anderson Sr., told Fox News’ “Hannity” that police and Durkan had failed to reach out to him since his son’s death.
“They need to come talk to me and somebody needs to come tell me something, because I still don’t know nothing,” an emotional Anderson told host Sean Hannity. “Somebody needs to come to my house and knock on my door and tell me something. I don’t know nothing. All I know is my son got killed up there.”
Durkan insisted in a tweet Wednesday that “For weeks, we have had incredibly peaceful demonstrations on Capitol Hill.”
Previously, she said her decision to close down CHOP was made for the public’s safety despite the city’s best efforts to deescalate the situation and bring the community together.
Durkan later urged the City Council to investigate Councilmember Kshama Sawant, a socialist, who the mayor accused of allowing hundreds of protesters into City Hall while it was closed; leading protesters to her home despite threats from the time that she was a U.S. attorney; and encouraging the protesters to occupy the East Precinct, according to Seattle’s Q13 Fox.
“All of us have joined hundreds of demonstrations across the City, but Councilmember Sawant and her followers chose to do so with reckless disregard of the safety of my family and children. In addition, during or after Councilmember Sawant’s speech at that rally, her followers vandalized my home by spray-painting obscenities,” Durkan wrote in a letter to Council President Lorena González.
Patch reported late Wednesday that the City Council refused the request.
“The public airing of issues amongst and between independently elected officials will not advance solutions on the deepening needs of our constituents,” González wrote.
Sawant and Durkan’s public feud illustrated how divided members of the same political parties have been about how to resolve the problem. Trump has been criticized by some on the right for not taking bold enough action with protesters.
Best, the police chief, was reportedly at odds with Durkan over the city’s handling of the protest zone. The chief has accused the mayor of shirking her responsibilities as an elected official and allowing protesters to oust police officers from a precinct.
On Wednesday, Best said she was “stunned by the amount of graffiti, garbage and property destruction” she saw during a tour of the area.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr praised Best for what he called “her courage and leadership in restoring the rule of law in Seattle.”
“Chief Best has rightly committed to continue the substantive discussion while ending the violence, which threatens innocent people and undermines the very rule-of-law principles that the protesters profess to defend,” Barr said in a statement.
Fox News’ Vandana Rambaran, Yael Halon, Danielle Wallace and The Associated Press contributed to this report.