Authorities in Seattle, Washington, alarmed by two weekend shootings and a third early Tuesday morning, plan to start dismantling six blocks of streets in a part of the city occupied by activists who are protesting against police brutality and racial inequality across the United States.
A teenager was killed and at least two other people were wounded in the weekend shootings in what is known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) zone. The area has also been referred to as CHAZ, or the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone”.
The third shooting happened around 5am on Tuesday in the same neighbourhood east of downtown Seattle. A spokesperson at Harborview Medical Center said the victim’s wounds were not life-threatening.
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Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said that city authorities were working to bring the CHOP zone to an end and that the Seattle Police Department would soon move back into a precinct building its forces had largely abandoned in the area.
“SPD will be returning to the East Precinct. We will do it peacefully and in the near future,” Durkan told a news conference on Monday.
Durkan condemned the violence in the area, writing on Twitter that it was “unacceptable” and that it distracted from the demonstrators’ stated goals of demanding racial equality and an end to police brutality.
United States President Donald Trump has said the demonstrations in the Seattle protest zone are being run by “anarchists”, and has sharply criticised leaders in the city and state of Washington for allowing the CHOP zone to persist. He said at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma that the CHOP incidents are indicative of “what radical left Democrats will do to our country”.
On Tuesday, Trump vowed to stamp out any protesters seeking to establish a similar so-called “autonomous zone” in the nation’s capital, echoing conservative outrage over the prospect of police-free enclaves cropping up in major US cities.
“There will never be an ‘Autonomous Zone’ in Washington, DC, as long as I’m your President,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “If they try they will be met with serious force!”
There will never be an “Autonomous Zone” in Washington, D.C., as long as I’m your President. If they try they will be met with serious force!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 23, 2020
Late on Tuesday, Twitter flagged Trump’s tweet as in violation of its policies against abusive behaviour.
During protests in Washington, DC on Monday night, demonstrators spray-painted the phrase “BHAZ: Black House Autonomous Zone” on a piece of plywood on H Street and on the columns of St John’s Episcopal Church, where the president posed with a Bible earlier this month.