After days of ongoing protests and the Seattle police facing a growing backlash over its dispersal tactics to stop the protestors in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, the Seattle Police Department decided to take a step back and offer a concession.
The Seattle Police Officers decided they would abandon their precinct, board up the windows and let the protestors have full control outside. The police officers are now only responding to emergency calls.
However, Seattle Police Assistant Chief Deanna Nollette said: “in an effort to try to collaborate and cooperate and move forward peacefully, we’re trying to get a dialogue going.”
“We’re trying to figure out a way to resolve this without unduly impacting the citizens and businesses that are operating in that area,” Nollette said. “We don’t want the important message about justice and improving policing relations and improving racial equity to get drowned out by this small fraction of what’s going on.”
In a neighbourhood that is the heart of the city’s art and culture, also threatened these days as rising tech wealth brings in upscaling, the protesters seized the moment. They turned the barricades to shield the liberated streets and laid claim to various city blocks, now known as the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.”
“This space is now the property of the Seattle people,” read a banner on the front entrance of the empty police station. The entire area is now a home for racial justice.
What has appeared is an experiment in life without the police, part street festival, part commune. Hundreds of protestors have gathered together to hear speeches, poetry and music. On Tuesday night, dozens of protestors sat in the middle of a junction to watch “13th,” the Ava DuVernay film about the criminal justice system’s impact on African-Americans. On Wednesday, children made chalk drawings in the centre of the street. Seattle seems to be now under the full control of its people, the peaceful protesters.
On Wednesday night, President Trump tried to represent the scenes in the city as something more ominous. He called for government administrators to crack down on the protesters, stating in one of his tweets that “Domestic Terrorists have taken over Seattle.”
“Take back your city NOW,” Trump wrote in a tweet aimed at Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Gov. Jay Inslee. “If you don’t do it, I will. This is not a game.”
Radical Left Governor @JayInslee and the Mayor of Seattle are being taunted and played at a level that our great Country has never seen before. Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will. This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stooped IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 11, 2020
Trump tweeted that “domestic terrorists have taken over Seattle,” claiming they are “run by Radical Left Democrats.”
Domestic Terrorists have taken over Seattle, run by Radical Left Democrats, of course. LAW & ORDER!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 11, 2020
Mayor Durkan replied with a tweet of her own: “Make us all safe. Go back to your bunker,” referencing to when US Secret Service moved Trump to the bunker amid protests.
— Mayor Jenny Durkan (@MayorJenny) June 11, 2020
Whereas Inslee replied to Trump’s tweet saying, ”A man who is totally incapable of governing should stay out of Washington state’s business. “Stoop” tweeting.”
A man who is totally incapable of governing should stay out of Washington state’s business. “Stoop” tweeting. https://t.co/O6i04qmZ9v
— Jay Inslee (@JayInslee) June 11, 2020
The protest zone has increasingly operated with the implicit blessing of the city. Harold Scoggins, the fire chief, was there on Wednesday, talking with protesters, helping set up a call with the police department and making sure the area had portable toilets and sanitation services.
“I have no idea where we’re headed,” Mr Scoggins stated in an interview. “We’ve been working step by step on how to build a relationship, build trust in small things, so we can figure this out together.”
The demonstrators have also been trying to figure it out, with different factions voicing different priorities.
While Mr Floyd’s death in Minneapolis inspired most of the energy in the streets toward ending police violence and racial injustice, some of those here in recent days have driven for a broader and deeper focus. Some of the messages reflect the 2011 Occupy movement and appeared aimed at targeting corporate America for its role in social inequities.
“The more we encourage and focus on the race thing, the greater our attention is not focusing on the fact that this is class warfare,” said a 28-year-old protester and self-described anarchist who distinguished himself only by his first name, Fredrix.
But some of those who gathered here over race and policing have started to worry that these broader priorities could cloud the main agenda at a time when vital progress for African-Americans seemed far within reach.
“We should focus on just this one thing first,” stated Moe’Neyah Dene Holland, 19, a Black Lives Matter activist. “The other things can follow suit. Because honestly, black men are dying and this is the thing we should be focusing on.”
The city prepared for the possibility that the street demonstrations could linger.
The protesters also had differing assumptions about how long the autonomous zone would last. Some wondered if the police department would try to reclaim the territory. Others said they assumed the barriers to be up for weeks until state and city leaders had done what is suitable to meet their demands.