Seattle saw a 525-percent spike in crime reports due to violence and turmoil within the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone, according to figures released by the city’s mayor as she authorized police to clear the site.
Mayor Jenny Durkan’s executive order to oust the protesters from the self-proclaimed six-block cop-free zone states the “narcotics use and violent crime, including rape, robbery, assault, and increased gang activity” since ‘CHOP’ first appeared in early June.
In less than a month, the self-declared “autonomous zone” has seen two deadly shootings and a serious hike in reported incidents of crime. Two black teens, aged 16 and 19, were shot dead in separate incidents. For comparison, that’s how many were recorded in the entire Capitol Hill neighborhood in all of the previous year.
“An increase of 525 percent, 22 additional incidents, in person-related crime in the area, to include two additional homicides, six additional robberies, and 16 additional aggravated assaults,” Durkan’s order says.
The mayor authorized police to take back the neighborhood on Wednesday, saying that conditions in CHOP have worsened “to the point where activities in and around this area threaten public health, life, and safety.”
On Wednesday morning, Seattle police reclaimed their precinct in the city’s “occupied” protest zone, arresting at least 31 people. Police Chief Carmen Best said in a statement that her officers were moving in after “weeks of violence” in and around the protest zone.
“The CHOP has become lawless and brutal. Four shootings – two fatal – robberies, assaults, violence, and countless property crimes have occurred in this several block area,” Best said.
Demonstrators had occupied several blocks around a park and the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct after officers abandoned the building on June 8 following clashes with protesters demanding an end to police brutality. CHOP, previously called ‘CHAZ,’ area was originally portrayed as a peaceful rally against police brutality over the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis in May.
Durkan had initially recognized the “autonomous zone” clustered around the deserted East Precinct police station, describing it as a “peaceful expression of our community’s collective grief,” and confirmation of Seattle’s “democracy.”
But the city has been heavily criticized for letting the encampment prevail. A lawsuit brought by surrounding businesses accused Durkan and her administration of “enabling” the demonstrations.
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