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The mayor of Seattle has had enough and is moving to reclaim the police-free autonomous zone known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP).
Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Monday evening that protesters would be encouraged to move out of the area — previously known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) — and that the Seattle Police Department would return to its abandoned East Precinct building “peacefully and in the near future.”
“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,” Durkan said at a press conference on Monday night. “The impacts on the businesses and residents and the community are now too much.”
Durkan said “the night-time atmosphere and violence" inside the zone had led to the decision to end the occupation. Over the weekend three people were shot in the CHOP, and one of them, a 19-year-old man, died as result. On Sunday a 17-year-old was shot in the arm but refused to speak to police about the incident.
There have also been reports of rape, arson, and property destruction, according to Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best.
“We cannot walk away from the truth of what is happening here,” Best told the press conference. “This is about life or death.”
In a Facebook Live video posted earlier on Monday, Andre Taylor, who founded the anti-police-shooting organization Not This Time!, warned fellow protesters that violent attacks in the CHOP would result in the city retaking the area.
“That CHOP area is attracting this kind of activity and it’s unsafe,” Taylor said. “I told them, ’All those people that were supporting you guys, they’re going to start walking away from you, especially all those white people that were following you. … They don’t want to be associated with any part of that violence.”
The protesters have occupied the area since June 8, when police abandoned the precinct building following violent clashes with demonstrators.
The situation in Seattle has angered President Donald Trump, who labeled those occupying the six blocks of eastern Seattle “domestic terrorists.”
Trump at one point threatened to invade the city. Durkan responded by telling him to “go back to his bunker” — a reference to reports that Trump was brought to the bunker under the White House when protesters gathered outside on May 29.
There is no clear deadline for when the protesters will be required to leave the area, but Durkan indicated that protests will be allowed to continue during the day.
Durkan, who previously said the autonomous zone might last for months and could be seen as the “summer of love,” said Monday that protesters would not be removed forcefully but that authorities would engage with the leaders of Black-led community organizations to persuade them to leave the area.
Cover: A sign welcomes visitors Monday, June 22, 2020, near an entrance to what has been named the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone in Seattle. For the second time in less than 48 hours, there was a shooting near the "CHOP" area that has been occupied by protesters after Seattle Police pulled back from several blocks of the city's Capitol Hill neighborhood near the Police Department's East Precinct building. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)