SEATTLE — A total of 25 people were arrested overnight in the area of Broadway and East Pine as protests continued after police dismantled the "Capitol Hill Organized Protest" zone (CHOP).
Police used blast balls and pepper spray while making arrests, after people in the crowd began throwing bottles at officers, according to the department.
Demonstrators continued to march and protest on Capitol Hill, downtown Seattle, and some marched to Mayor Jenny Durkan's house.
The Seattle Police Department moved into the CHOP around 5 a.m. Wednesday and returned to the East Precinct after abandoning the building nearly three weeks ago.
Officers arrested at least 44 people on Wednesday for failure to disperse, obstruction, resisting arrest, and assault. However, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said she recommended the city not file charges against misdemeanor arrests from Wednesday morning.
Durkan issued a 48-hour executive order for protesters to vacate the area due to the ongoing violence and public safety issues in the area of the East Precinct and Cal Anderson Park. Mayor Durkan's order declared the gathering as an “unlawful assembly” that required immediate action.
“These acts of violence hurt our whole community and they are also in direct contrast to the message ringing from the streets that Black lives matter,” Durkan said during a briefing after the operation.
Two teenagers were killed and three other people were injured in shootings in or near the CHOP since the protest began on June 8. The precinct was evacuated on June 11.
Police moved into the CHOP just before 5 a.m. and issued a dispersal order to any protesters in the area.
"Anyone who remains in the area, or returns to the area, is subject to arrest," SPD tweeted.
Officers were seen clearing tents and barriers in the CHOP. KING 5 crews saw officers using pepper spray on demonstrators who weren’t leaving the area after dispersal orders were given.
"Thank you to the individuals affiliated with the CHOP who have assisted officers in encouraging people to safely leave the area," SPD tweeted.
KING 5’s Michael Crowe said a majority of the protesters had left the CHOP by 6:20 a.m. Around the same time, SPD tweeted that officers “continue to give dispersal orders and are moving remaining groups north through Cal Anderson Park.”
"The Seattle Police Department basically reclaimed the precinct in less than 30 minutes, 5 feet at a time with the bicycle officers out in front,” said Omari Salisbury, a reporter with Seattle's Converge Media. Salisbury has been live streaming from the CHOP throughout the protest in Capitol Hill.
SPD said officers enforcing Mayor Durkan’s order were “wearing a higher-level of protective gear” because “numerous people in the area are in possession of firearms” and that suspects in recent shootings may still be in the area.
At 6:35 a.m., SPD said it was investigating “several vehicles” that were circling the area after officers moved into the CHOP. Police said the vehicles didn’t appear to have visible license plates, and the people inside were seen with “firearms/armor.”
Police said a 29-year-old man that was arrested Wednesday had a large metal pipe and kitchen knife when he was taken into custody.
Police tweeted city workers also recovered "improvised spike strips" from the area around the CHOP.
Durkan has received criticism for allowing the CHOP to remain in place for more than three weeks, but the mayor defended the wait saying the operation that took place Wednesday morning would not have been possible with more protesters occupying the area. Last week CHOP organizers asked demonstrators to leave the area due to safety concerns.
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said during a press conference Wednesday morning that officers searched the East Precinct to make sure there “weren’t any obstacles or any other concerns in the building.”
Chief Best said officers cleared the building, but haven’t moved into the precinct yet.
Chief Best said SPD would start operations at the precinct “as soon as we reasonably can.”
"This is not an end to our department’s engagement with demonstrators," said Chief Best. "We must continue our efforts to build trust and redefine our roles as guardians in our city."
U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr issued a statement Wednesday and commended Chief Best “for her courage and leadership in restoring the rule of law in Seattle.”
“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,” Barr said in the statement. “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.”
The decision to dismantle the CHOP was sparked by an uptick in violence in addition to the deadly shootings.
"The CHOP has become lawless and brutal," Chief Best said.
In a Blotter post, SPD said there were 65 reported offenses inside the CHOP between June 8-30, 2020. Police said the offenses include aggravated assault, larceny-theft, rape, and two homicides. There were a total of 37 offenses during that time in the same area in 2019, according to SPD.
Activist Andre Taylor, whose brother was shot and killed by Seattle Police in 2016, said the first time there was violence in the CHOP, there should have been an "awakening."
"That awakening should have focused on those deaths as well as George Floyd's untimely death,” said Taylor. “I think if they had pivoted to those deaths as strongly as George Floyd's death, I think that Seattle would have continued to support this group. But for there to be continual shootings and deaths consistently, we just couldn't allow this place to continue. It didn't end how it started and that's the tragedy of the situation."
Moving forward, Durkan said during a Wednesday briefing that her administration would work with community to rethink policing and investments in communities of color. Durkan says they will focus on areas including investments in Black communities and young people, rethinking and reimagining policing, including culture and budget, and accountability and reform, including state law.
Some of those investments include allocating $100 million in her 2021 budget for investments in Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities, $5 million in the budget rebalance for summer learning for Black youth, and $20 million in cuts from the Seattle police budget.
“Undoing centuries of systemic racism will not happen overnight as I’ve said before but I do believe Seattle can lead the way,” Durkan said.