Authorities in Seattle arrested 25 individuals overnight in the area formally known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) following a day of officials clearing out the area, while business owners begin to breathe a collective sigh of relief.
“Many people came out and were thanking the officers they were thanking me. They were so glad to — I think we don’t even realize the level of trauma to some of the folks who live around there, what they were experiencing,” Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said on Thursday.
The East Precinct is “partially operational” and is staffed with some personnel, Best told King 5 on Thursday.
Mayor Jenny Durkan (D) on Wednesday ordered the immediate dismantling of the “autonomous” zone, citing gun violence, narcotics use, rape, robbery, assault, increased gang activity, noise disturbances, property damage, and business harassment. Officials subsequently dismantled the area on Wednesday, removing barriers as law enforcement arrested individuals who refused to leave the area.
“It was calm, protesters were screaming at them, but not in huge quantities,” said Bill Donner, whom KOMO described as a “longtime area business owner.” “It was really a good time to come in. A few weeks too late, but a good time to come in.”
“All of a sudden, we looked out and there must have been 100 policemen [and] tactical vehicles [and] they were here to do something,” Donner, president of his printing firm Rightmark Label, told the outlet.
“The mayor hasn’t looked out for anybody’s safety that we are aware of, in weeks,” he added.
“I’m glad they are here and are cleaning up, and I have my police force back,” said John McDermott, another local business owner. “I was hoping I’d feel a greater sense of relief but on some level it feels a little too late.”
“We looked for answers from mayor and city council and we got nothing,” Faizel Khan, another business owner told the outlet.
Khan and about a dozen other business owners recently sued the city for violating their Constitutional rights by not taking action sooner. Donner also sued the city, and wants it to pay to remove the graffiti that has defaced his brick building.
“Why not act weeks ago before it got to this point?” asks Donner, whose business borders Cal Anderson Park.
Several business owners and employees agreed that the mayor failed to lead, citing a hit to their businesses in which employees and customers were afraid to visit. Other merchants were upset because their store fronts were targeted by graffiti.
Videos show city officials and police clearing out the area, which had been vacated by police for weeks and left to the demonstrators, comprised of self-described anarchists and members of Antifa:
— Joseph Suttner (@josephsuttner) July 1, 2020
What a difference a couple hours makes. https://t.co/2zCSEMprsX
— Michael Crowe (@MichaelReports) July 1, 2020
— Sebastian Robertson (@srobertsontv) July 1, 2020
— Joseph Suttner (@josephsuttner) July 1, 2020
— Joseph Suttner (@josephsuttner) July 2, 2020
Seattle Police announced 44 arrests for “failure to disperse, assault, obstruction, pedestrian interference and malicious mischief” throughout Wednesday’s recovery process.
Police clashed with demonstrators again early Thursday morning, leading to the arrest of 25 individuals. They were arrested for “failure to disperse, assault, and obstructing,” according to SPD Blotter.
“Police deployed blast balls and pepper spray while attempting to make arrests after individuals in the crowd began throwing bottles at officers,” SPD Blotter reported.
Attorney General William Barr praised Chief Best and the Seattle police force on Wednesday for reclaiming the area from demonstrators.
He said in part:
As Chief Best made clear throughout the process, there is a fundamental distinction between discussion of substantive issues — including addressing distrust of law enforcement by many in the African-American community — and violent defiance of the law. 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. Thanks to the Seattle Police Department, Capitol Hill parks, streets, and businesses are again accessible to the people of Seattle, who may travel throughout their city without fear of violence. The people of Seattle should be grateful to Chief Best and her Department for their professional and steadfast defense of the rule of law.
“The message of today’s action is simple but significant: the Constitution protects the right to speak and assemble freely, but it provides no right to commit violence or defy the law, and such conduct has no place in a free society governed by law,” he added.