People with guns are checking the identification of individuals trying to enter an area in Seattle run by far-left activists and groups such as Antifa, the Seattle Police Department stated.
“We have been hearing from community members that they have been subjected to barricades set up by the protesters, with some armed individuals running them as checkpoints into the neighborhood,” Assistant Chief Deanna Nollette told reporters on June 10.
“While they have a constitutionally protected right to bear arms, and while Washington is an open carry state, there is no legal right for those arms to be used to intimidate community members.”
Police officials have also heard of businesses and citizens being asked to pay a fee to operate in the area, which is known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone and includes about 500 houses. That would be the crime of extortion, Nollette said.
Anyone feeling threatened, intimidated, or extorted should call 911, she added.
The takeover of the area was completed after police officers abandoned the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct after threats that it would be burned down.
Because the building is connected to apartment buildings and businesses, officials made the choice to board it up and secure it before relocating officers.
Nollette said police want to return to normal operations at the precinct, which would improve response times and capabilities within the neighborhood. But there’s no set plan yet for how to return, she said.
Putting up barricades and blocking some people from entering isn’t legal, the police official continued. “However, in an effort to try to cooperate and collaborate, and move forward peacefully, we’re trying to get a dialogue going so that we can figure out the way to resolve this without unduly impacting the citizens and businesses that are operating in that area,” she said.
Video footage shows assaults and other crimes taking place within the autonomous zone, including footage filmed by Raz Simone, a local rapper, showing a man being assaulted for putting graffiti on an outdoor wall.
Groups who have self-identified as being part of the takeover include the Seattle Democratic Socialists of America and Antifa, a far-left group that espouses violence.
The group has a lengthy list of demands, including abolishing the Seattle Police Department, reparations for “victims of policy brutality,” and a retrial of all minorities currently in prison for violent crimes.
Barricades viewed by a reporter with NTD Television, an affiliate of The Epoch Times, included the phrase, “Public safety means no cops on our streets.” Another slogan called for defunding the police.
The East Precinct building entrance sign was painted over to say “Seattle People Department.”
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best met with some of the occupiers on June 9, including Simone.
“I heard some people say they were in support of SPD, but after this week they lost hope and they were angry,” Simone told Best, according to a local outlet. “I think a lot of the conversations you guys might want to have will be with the residents.”
“I think you are right. I am actually going to go around and talk to the residents about what they are feeling and what they saw. I agree that people felt traumatized in many ways,” Best said.
Asked about the zone during a separate press conference on June 10, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, told reporters, “That’s news to me, so I’ll have to reserve any comment about it.”
What’s happening, though, has drawn nationwide attention.
President Donald Trump, a Republican, said Inslee and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan “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 stopped IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST!” he wrote on Twitter.
Inslee told Trump in response that “a man who is totally incapable of governing should stay out of Washington state’s business.”
“Make us all safe. Go back to your bunker,” Durkan, a Democrat, added.