Seattle’s Mayor, Jenny Durkan, has addressed the group of protesters who have an established autonomous zone in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood this week, and told them all that “it’s time for people to go home.” While the mayor ensured that no one would be removed by force, she would be meeting with Black-led community organizations as a means of persuading them to leave the area while they continue out their peaceful protests.
Police were initially pulled out of the Seattle Police Department precinct located in the neighborhood as tensions rose amid the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police. This past weekend, however, three separate shootings occurred at night in the same area as the autonomous zone, motivating officials to get all protesters out at least during the nighttime hours of the day.
“We can still accommodate people who want to protest peacefully. But the impacts on the businesses and residents in the community are now too much,” Durkan said.
The East Precinct was boarded up and abandoned by officers after protesters set up an autonomous zone directly outside of the building. Police Chief Carmen Best said that the decision to leave the precinct was not her idea and expressed her anger to citizens when the decision was made. Mayor Durkan, on the other end of it, told media outlets that she thought the autonomous zone could be “seen as the Summer of Love.”
However, while the message behind the zone is strong and powerful, Durkan still believes she needs to get her officers back in the building, and claims it’s literally a matter of “life or death.” There’s been over 100,000 emergency calls since the creation of the zone that could’ve been more easily responded to if first responders didn’t have to work though a “hostile crowd,” according to officials.
Protesters view the hostility as coming more so from the side of authority, as Durkan herself even pointed out, the victims of the three shootings that occurred near the autonomous zone were all black men; one of which was just 19-years-old, who unfortunately ended up passing away from his injuries.
“It is not unnoticed that the victims were Black men, there have also been reports of rape, arson and property destruction. We cannot walk away from the truth of what is happening here. This is about life or death,” Mayor Durkan said.
Chief Best has since denied claims that her department was not responding to calls in the zone purposefully, and emphasized to the public that Seattle itself is “not under siege” and officers are “responding to every call in every area of the city.” This specific statement, however, came out directly after Seattle Police officers received a department wide email that instructed them not to respond to calls for service within the autonomous zone unless they were responding to a “mass casualty event such as an active shooter or fire.”
Seattle Police spokesman Detective Patrick Michaud confirmed to media outlets that the email was in fact authentic but officers were still responding to any significant safety issues within the neighborhood. Other minor calls from within the zone are responded to by requesting the caller to meet first responders outside of the area.