Seattle police officers were inside the abandoned East Precinct in the so-called autonomous zone on Friday, a police spokeswoman said, as officials finalize plans for retaking the building.
Police abandoned the building last week amid riots and threats from anti-government groups to destroy it.
Activists then placed barricades to create what they’re calling the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.
A small group of officers were let into the zone Thursday and went inside the building, a move some of the occupiers objected to. Officers remained in the building Friday, Mark Jamieson of the Seattle Police public affairs office told the Daily Caller.
“There are plans to get [all] officers back into the precinct,” he added, noting that not all of the officers assigned to the area have returned.
Better angle of the police station.
Huge sign says “This space is now property of the Seattle people.” pic.twitter.com/MTvEMqt7Zf
— Bowen Xiao (@BowenXiao_) June 12, 2020
Officers inside the precinct are “assessing the building,” the spokesman said.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said at a briefing Thursday that officials have talked about moving Seattle officers back into the precinct and that officers did an assessment earlier in the day.
“We’re going to make an ongoing assessment on when it would be safe and appropriate for them to move in there,” she said, adding later that: “We don’t want to introduce additional flashpoints.”
Response times to rapes and other violent crimes in the zone have soared in recent days without a police presence there, according to Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best. She entered the precinct, which is boarded up and hasn’t been looted, on Thursday, telling reporters that she wants things to return to normal.
“The actions of a small group cannot and should not deprive an entire segment of our community from public safety services,” Best said at a separate press conference.
“If that is your mother, your sister, your cousin, your neighbor’s kid that is being raped, robbed, assaulted, and otherwise victimized, you’re not going to want to have to report that it took the police three times longer to get there to provide services to them.”
In a video released to the public after it was leaked to the press, Best told Seattle police officers that she did not make the decision to abandon the precinct.
“You fought for days to protect it, I asked you to stand on that line, day in and day out, to be pelted with projectiles, to be screamed at, threatened, and in some cases hurt, then to have a change of course nearly two weeks in? It seems like an insult to you and the community.”
“Ultimately, the city had other plans for the other building and relented to severe public pressure,” she added, describing herself as “angry.”
Reports of armed people patrolling the area and conducting checks of identification, and extortion of local businesses, are concerning, police officials said this week.
It’s still not clear who issued the order to abandon the precinct.
Detectives, meanwhile, released video footage showing a man just before 3 a.m. on Friday setting a fire outside the East Precinct.
The black male was wearing a bright green or yellow sweatshirt, black pants, and white tennis shoes and carrying a red container.
He walked up to the east side of the building, poured liquid from the can along the wall of the building, and left. A few minutes later, he returned, lit something in his hand, and dropped it.
As the suspect walked away, people nearby rushed to put out the flames.