CHOP gets chopped: Seattle police, FBI dismantle ‘protest zone’ after 2 teens killed

A sign reads "Capitol Hill Occupied Protest" in an area that has been referred to by protesters by that name as well as "Capitol Hill Organized Protest, or CHOP, on June 14, 2020, in Seattle, Washington. Black Lives Matter protesters have continued demonstrating in what was first referred to as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, which encompasses several blocks around the Seattle Police Departments vacated East Precinct, but what protesters are now calling the "Capitol Hill Organized Protest." | David Ryder/Getty Image

Seattle police and the FBI began the work of dismantling the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone early Wednesday morning after Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an executive order calling for the immediate clearing of the occupied area after two teenagers were killed.

The mayor’s executive order comes a day after Horace Lorenzo Anderson, the father of one of the teenage shooting victims, demanded that the National Guard be brought in to tear down the zone. The zone and its surrounding area have been the scene of several reported robberies, rapes and shootings.  

Anderson’s 19-year-old son was shot and killed in CHOP on June 20.

"This doesn't look like a protest to me no more," Anderson told Seattle news station KIRO. "That just looks like they just took over and said we can take over whenever we want to."

At around 3 a.m. Monday, a second teenager was killed by CHOP protesters who shot at a Jeep Cherokee as the driver attempted to drive through the protest zone. 

Inside the vehicle was a 16-year-old boy who was shot and killed and a 14-year-old boy who was wounded. Detectives who were called out to the scene searched the vehicle but said in an SPD Blotter update that "it was clear the crime scene had been disturbed." They're now urging witnesses to contact the Seattle Police Department's violent crimes tipline. 

Over 100 Seattle police officers entered CHOP Wednesday morning where they were met by protesters who overturned portable toilets and erected a barricade of trash bags and cans in retaliation, The Seattle Times reported.

“This order, and our police response, comes after weeks of violence in and around the Capitol Hill Occupied Protests Zone, including four shootings, resulting in multiple injuries and the deaths of two teenagers,” Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said in a statement.

In a series of news updates released by the SPD, the department said 31 arrests had been made by 9:25 a.m. for “failure to disperse, obstruction, resisting arrest, and assault."

Among those arrested was a 29-year-old man who "was in possession of a large metal pipe and kitchen knife when he was taken into custody,” the department added. 

The SPD released photos of the weapons and said city workers also recovered “improvised spike strips — designed to puncture vehicle tires — in the area of the CHOP.”

Police cleared an area for people to exit CHOP through the south end of the zone and warned protesters that if they attempted to stay, they would be arrested.  

A man named Harry “Rick” Jones, who was part of security inside CHOP, also urged protesters to leave the area and indicated that they would “regroup” and “find another place” to go, The Seattle Times reported.

Seattle's mayor has faced criticism for backing the demonstrators and defending the CHOP/CHAZ occupation as a legitimate expression of peaceful protest. 

Durkan was also denounced for suggesting CHOP might turn out to be "the summer of love" in an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo despite numerous reports of crimes that left residents and business owners fearing for their lives.

Following weeks of chaos, Durkan announced last week that police would be returning to the East Precinct and the city would begin shutting down CHOP "at night."

After Durkan said the area would be shut down she was met with protests at her home led by Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant and that's when she took action to tear down the CHOP occupation zone.

A statement released by the mayor's office on Monday called Sawant’s actions dangerous “stunts” in part because Durkan's home address was concealed from public records “because of the death threats mostly related to her work as Seattle’s U.S. Attorney under President Obama.”

On Tuesday night, Durkan’s office sent a letter to Seattle City Council President M. Lorena González calling for an investigation into Sawant’s actions and for her dismissal from the city council.

"The letter from Durkan’s office levels five allegations against Sawant including 'using her official position to lead a march’ to the mayor’s home Sunday night,'" reports Capitol Hill Seattle

Sawant has been a vocal defender of CHOP and dismissed reports of the crimes committed there as conservative propaganda perpetuated by capitalists. 

In one series of tweets, she called capitalism a “police state” and said the crimes and killing inside CHOP “underscores the urgency to Defund police by at least 50 percent.”

City workers began removing barriers erected around CHOP on Tuesday, which protesters quickly replaced by moving the few remaining city trash cans and other objects around their designated parameter.

At a press briefing on Capitol Hill Monday morning, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said “enough is enough.”

“Two African American men are dead, at a place where they claim to be working for Black Lives Matter. But they’re gone, they’re dead now,” Best said, referring to the killing of the teenager killed Monday morning as well as the fatal shooting of Anderson's who was killed two Saturdays ago. 

“This is dangerous and unacceptable,” she added. 

Protesters occupied several blocks around Cal Anderson Park and the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct for about three weeks.

Follow Melissa Barnhart on Twitter: @MelBarnhart

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