Protesters at Seattle’s “Capitol Hill Organized Protest” (CHOP) zone are being encouraged by community leaders and an activist whose brother was fatally shot by city police in 2016 to leave the “occupied” protest zone.
A Twitter account, which claims to be the “official account” for CHOP, posted a statement on Wednesday addressed to “comrades in the struggle,” encouraging protesters to leave the area that was established earlier this month in the wake of Black American George Floyd’s death in police custody.
An important message from #CHOP #CHOPSeattle. Please amplify. Thank you for your support over the last two weeks. #ChopWasASuccess #CHOPcomms #CHOPCHAZ ☂️☂️☂️ #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/7e5ISrWvX6
— Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (Official Account) (@CHOPOfficialSEA) June 24, 2020
“The CHOP project is now concluded,” the message said. “While we expect a very small handful of holdouts may try to remain in the CHOP, no further organizing will be occurring to support this presence and the number on-site will be too small to be more than an annoyance for pedestrians rather than a zonal blockade.”
It is unclear who runs the Twitter account, however, the statement was signed as from “the Capitol Hill Solidarity Committee.”
“Last night, Solidarity Committee received notice from some of our trusted partners that persons in the park were in danger. We immediately implemented our emergency relocation plan, successfully evacuating most of the park. Thankfully, no danger materialized. However, we are now left with the reality that very few people remain in our beloved CHOP,” the message continued.
Free food station for those in the zone: pic.twitter.com/SkfeI9SMLZ
— Bowen Xiao (@BowenXiao_) June 12, 2020
It called on protestors occupying the zone to “continue the struggle” through social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, adding: “We have held city officials accountable and can continue to do so in a way that is safe for everyone.”
The message then called on supporters to vote for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, to reelect Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (D).
It comes after Durkan announced on Monday that officials were working to dismantle the blocks-long span of city streets that President Donald Trump asserted was run by “anarchists,” after a shooting left one person dead over the weekend. Three other shootings have been reported in the area in recent days.
I spent nearly 1 week inside #CHAZ interviewing different people and documenting what I saw.
Here’s what I found: https://t.co/TqnaXyxZbR
— Bowen Xiao (@BowenXiao_) June 17, 2020
Durkan said at a news conference that the violence was distracting from changes sought by thousands of peaceful protesters seeking to address racial inequity and police brutality.
“The cumulative impacts of the gatherings and protests and the nighttime atmosphere and violence has led to increasingly difficult circumstances for our businesses and residents,” she said. “The impacts have increased and the safety has decreased.”
Dozens of protestors, however, are reportedly refusing to budge despite increasing calls to do so. They say their demands to slash police budget by 50 percent and distribute funds to community efforts have not been met.
“Our demands aren’t met,” one man who had set up his tent outside the Seattle Police Department’s abandoned East Precinct building told The Seattle Times. “Why would we leave?”
As part of the 2020 and 2021 budget, we will be looking at @SeattlePD‘s culture and budget. Police should not always be first people on the scene to deal with every call for help. Not every 9-1-1 call requires someone with a firearm to show up.
— Mayor Jenny Durkan (@MayorJenny) June 23, 2020
Durkan on Wednesday submitted a “Budget Rebalancing” document (pdf) that seeks to cut $20 million from the city’s police department budget in a bid to address a series of challenges that include “a movement to demand anti-racist action, to divest and rethink policing, and end institutional racism.”
The mayor’s proposal for a $20 million cut amounts to a 5 percent cut, according to The Seattle Times.
The earliest scheduled vote on the rebalancing legislation and amendments is on July 1, according to an official committee meeting schedule.
“Not This Time” founder Andre Taylor, whose brother Che Taylor was shot by Seattle police four years ago, said the violence in the occupied zone distracts from key messages about racial injustice.
“If there was no violence, you should’ve stood there for as [long as] you wanted to stay there, but the violence creates a different narrative where the people in authority have to look at it differently,” he told KING-TV.
“Our community does not support the violence,” he added.
Last year, the local county prosecutor overseeing Taylor’s case said that charges against the police officers who opened fire on Taylor would not be filed after a majority of jurors said they believed the officers thought Taylor posed a “threat of death or serious bodily injury.” Andre argued that he believes the officers internalized their fear in the lead up to the confrontation as they observed Taylor from afar.
The statement from CHOP’s “official” Twitter account said they were told that the zone would be dismantled “no later than early next week.”
“[It] will be preceded by the removal of barriers and the reopening of streets to traffic,” the statement said.
Tom Ozimek and the Associated Press contributed to this report.