Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has finally decided that enough is enough and announced that Seattle will move to end the infamous “Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP zone).”
This decision was made Monday after two shootings took place over the weekend, one of which was fatal.
Hopefully, this decision is a sign that politicians will stop dragging their feet as these violent gatherings continue to sweep the nation.
Mayor Durkan hopes to "encourage individuals to leave voluntarily" while many members of the community wish for the police to respond more quickly to the violence.
Seattle will move to end the police-free zone known as the "Capitol Hill Organized Protest," or "CHOP," after two recent shootings, one of which was deadly, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Monday -- signaling that a stunning chapter in the city's history could be drawing to a close.
The mayor said the violence was distracting from changes sought by thousands of peaceful protesters seeking to address racial inequity and police brutality. Activists set up "CHOP" in the city's Capitol Hill neighborhood about two weeks ago, barricading off the area after police evacuated a ransacked precinct building there.
"The cumulative impacts of the gatherings and protests and the nighttime atmosphere and violence has led to increasingly difficult circumstances for our businesses and residents," Durkan said at a news conference. "The impacts have increased and the safety has decreased."
City leaders have faced mounting criticism -- including from President Trump -- over the protest zone amid reports of violence inside the area and how police can respond to such incidents. Police had not been able to go inside the zone. The dismantling of the CHOP followed the death of a 19-year-old man in a Saturday shooting in which another person was injured.
On Sunday, a 17-year-old was shot in the arm on the edge of the area.
Demonstrators inside CHOP have been mostly peaceful -- handing out free food and playing music -- but a more dangerous atmosphere has become evident at night. Residents and business owners have voiced concerns over safety and access for emergency first responders.
Volunteer medics inside the zone brought the victims of Saturday's shooting to the hospital rather than wait for the police and fire departments, who were preparing to respond before entering.
"There should be no place in Seattle that the Seattle Fire Department and the Seattle Police Department can't go," Durkan said.
Many Americans have been fed up with the violence that has gripped Seattle and other cities from the very beginning.
They are disappointed that up to this point, Seattle officials have seemingly refused to enforce the law.
There were plenty of warnings that the violence would lead Seattle police to take back the area.
NBC News reports:
Andre Taylor, who founded of the anti-police-shooting organization Not This Time! after his brother was killed by Seattle police in 2016, said Monday that he had warned protest organizers that the city would need to retake the area because of the violence.
“That CHOP area is attracting this kind of activity and it’s unsafe,” Taylor said in a Facebook video. “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.”
Bobbie Stills, a longtime Capitol Hill resident who’s been reporting on the occupation for a local news site, Converge Media, said in an interview that the kind of crime cited by the chief was nothing new for the neighborhood.
“There’s been no influx of crime because” of the protest zone, he said. But how residents, occupiers and businesses have responded to the lack of police presence has varied.
“You have some people reporting that it’s dangerous because there’s no cops, it’s lawless,” he said. “The other side of it is — I can go down here and play basketball at 3 in the morning and drink a beer in public and I don’t have to worry about a cop coming and killing me.”
He estimated that there were roughly 200 to 250 tents in the area Monday.
Peace has prevailed during the day. On Monday, people lounged on the turf at a park, while volunteers handed out food, water and toiletries. Artists painted designs on wooden barricades, and a few candles burned in front of a sign on the police building listing people killed by officers.
At night, however, the atmosphere has become more charged, with demonstrators marching and armed volunteer guards keeping watch.
“With not having a police presence here, people are free to do whatever they want to do,” said Bobby Stills, a Seattle resident who has spent time volunteering at the protest zone. “You never know who’s going to show up. That’s why people here are on such high alert — they don’t know who’s who or what’s what or their intentions.”
As of now, it seems everyone has had enough of this mindless violence, especially the police themselves, who are ready to take back the east precinct.