Seattle’s mayor Jenny Durkan, who once called the Capitol Hill Occupied (or Ongoing) Protest (CHOP) a “block party” and contended that protesters were hosting a “summer of love” is still defending the six-block “autonomous zone” despite her own decision to “wind down” CHOP amid increasing violence.
Police officers will dismantle the demonstration and return to the city’s East Precinct, located inside the CHOP zone as early as Tuesday after a series of shootings over the weekend left one man dead and at least two others wounded. One victim remains in critical condition.
“Residents” of CHOP blocked police and emergency medical personnel from attending to victims and investigating the shootings, leaving many long-term, actual residents of the area concerned that CHOP would descend further into lawlessness.
“After days of peaceful demonstrations, two nights of shootings have clearly escalated the situation on Capitol Hill,” Durkan’s office said in a statement issued Monday night. “We have been meeting with residents and small business owners to address their safety and disorder concerns, including the ability of first responders to access emergencies in the area.”
“As many community groups are also urging, [the Mayor] believes individuals can and should peacefully demonstrate, but the message cannot be lost in the violence,” the statement read.
But Durkan, who has long supported the CHOP, even though demonstrators hosting the ongoing protest regularly call for her resignation, took to Twitter to defend the six-block autonomous zone Monday night, calling the CHOP a place of “healing,” “education,” and “community.”
“Across the City, hundreds of thousands have gathered daily at different events protesting the murder of George Floyd and hundreds of years of systemic racism that led to his death. A recent silent march had nearly 85,000 peaceful attendees whose message was clear: we need change,” Durkan said on social media.
“At the same time, tens of thousands of people have been gathering in Capitol Hill for nearly two weeks to continue their protest, to build community and demand change. During the day, it has been a place for healing, education, and community – but it is very different at night,” she claimed.
Durkan then tried to distance the violence from the protests, despite evidence that even CHOP residents felt drug use and intoxication, as well as guns, were becoming a problem within the protest zone.
“While we believe community and demonstrators can and should continue gathering peacefully on Capitol Hill, the disorder, violence, and impacts on businesses and residents threatens to derail the CHOP’s critical message calling for justice, equality, and systemic reform,” she said.
After making clear she continues to support CHOP’s mission, Durkan launched into a complicated explanation of how the city plans to handle police reform and promising to heed protesters’ calls to dismantle and defund the Seattle Police Department — at least in part — and vowing, it seems, to allow CHOP to return in some new format.
“On Capitol Hill and across Seattle, we need to have true community space – with connections to community-based organizations, health clinics, and restorative justice programs – that will help us move forward together to dismantle generations of systemic racism in our City,” Durkan said.
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