A group of about 150 rioters in Seattle gathered late July 22 to cause significant damage in the former so-called autonomous zone, setting fires, breaking into businesses, and looting, police said.
Video footage and photographs showed rioters breaking into the Rove Vintage clothing store before dragging clothes onto the street and setting them on fire. Protesters said they targeted the store because it’s owned by the wife of a police officer.
Seattle officials had tolerated the autonomous zone, known as “CHAZ” or “CHOP,” for weeks before clearing occupiers earlier this month.
Video from Katie Daviscourt.
Other businesses that were damaged included Starbucks, Chase Bank, Whole Foods, Uncle Ike’s, and Blue Dot. The owners of Likelihood Seattle, a shoe store, told KOMO that rioters damaged their store, but when they reached out to police officers, they were told nothing could be done.
Rioters “roamed about the Capital Hill neighborhood, doing massive amounts of property damage, looting, shooting fireworks, and committing arson,” the Seattle Police Department said in a statement.
As the group moved through downtown, they smashed windows, set fires, and looted, police said.
After an undetermined amount of time, the group dispersed.
Police officials said no arrests were made and no officers were injured. The riots took place days after two people were arrested for helping to cause significant damage to both government buildings and private businesses.
A Seattle Police Department spokesman told The Epoch Times that arrests could be made at a later date.
“Life safety is our primary focus. When people damage property and the SPD moves in, there’s a likelihood that someone—whether an officer or someone else—could be injured. The SPD is trying to avoid that. However, this doesn’t mean that suspects in crimes won’t be arrested at a later date,” he said in an emailed statement.
“We are trying to find the safest ways to enforce the laws without making the situation worse. If lives are at risk, you can expect a swift response by the Seattle Police Department.”
Police officers are facing increased pressure to keep the peace while limited in the tools at their disposal.
The City Council unanimously passed an ordinance last month banning a range of crowd-control measures, including the use of CS gas. U.S. District Judge James Robart ruled July 22 that the ordinance can go into effect on July 26, but indicated he might reconsider after hearing arguments from attorneys for both sides.
According to the ordinance, city departments are prohibited from owning, purchasing, renting, storing, or using “crowd-control weapons” such as “chemical irritants, ultrasonic cannons … or any other device” to cause pain or discomfort.
Andrew Lewis, a councilman, praised the ruling, saying Robart recognized that “Constitutional policing (with a capital ‘C’) means we don’t tear gas peaceful protestors.”
All council members are Democrats except for Kshama Sawant, who is a socialist.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, a Democrat, declined to veto the bill. Instead, she and Police Chief Carmen Best asked the court to stop the ordinance from going into effect until the Department of Justice and others review it. Federal oversight of the department has been in place since 2012 after a review found officers were using excessive force.
A majority of Seattle council members support a plan to defund the city’s police department by 50 percent.
Deputy Mayor Mike Fong said in a letter to council members that the department has already spent half of its annual budget, so a 50 percent cut would leave police with no budget for the rest of the year “and require the City to abolish the department.”
In a letter to the council this week, Best said she was “concerned by the clear disconnect” many of the recommendations, including slashing her department’s budget, “have from reality.”
Also this week, City Council President M. Lorena Gonzalez decried what she described as “targeted protests” at the homes of council members.
“Demonstrations are a protest tool, but using that tool to create an environment by which people and their family members feel unsafe in their own homes is not something I can support,” she said.
“I urge protestors and my fellow elected officials to engage with each other in good faith and via the many tools available to access each other at City Hall, via virtual forums or during Full Council meetings that occur every Monday.”