President Donald Trump said officials in Washington state need to get tough on activists who have carved out a portion of a city and are blocking some people, including police officers, from entering.
“If there were more toughness, you wouldn’t have the kind of devastation that you had in Minneapolis and in Seattle. I mean, let’s see what’s going on in Seattle,” Trump told Fox News in an interview Thursday that was released Friday.
“If they don’t straighten that situation out, we’re going to straighten it out,” he said.
Trump, who is running for reelection, has promised to use force if state and local leaders don’t re-take what’s become known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, an area comprising multiple blocks in Seattle that includes a precinct police officers abandoned last week.
“We’re not going to let Seattle be occupied by anarchists,” the president said in the new interview, adding that he wasn’t referring to protesters.
While Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey acted weakly in the face of riots, Trump continued, he wondered if Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has “ever done this before.”
“We’re not going to let this happen in Seattle. If we have to go in, we’re going to go in. The governor’s either going to do it—let the governor do it, he’s got great National Guard troops, he can do it—but one way or another, it’s going to get done.”
“These people are not going to occupy a major portion of a great city,” he said.
Being tough on troublemakers is a form of compassion in some cases, the president asserted, “because people are getting badly hurt,” pointing out the mayhem that consumed Minneapolis, including the abandonment of a police precinct building that was subsequently torched.
“By being soft and weak, you end up not being compassionate, and it ends up being a dangerous situation,” he said.
Activists in Seattle have so far refrained from damaging the East Precinct building, which remains boarded up. Police officers in recent days have visited the station as part of efforts to formulate a plan that would see it opened back up.
Response times have soared in the autonomous zone, with rapes and other violent crimes taking place, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best told reporters this week.
Durkan, a Democrat, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, also a Democrat, have so far declined to use force to clear the occupiers, arguing that the best way to resolve the situation is through peaceful means.
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a Democrat, didn’t respond to a request for comment about actions he’s taken or plans to take regarding the situation, as he faced criticism from GOP officials and challengers.
Matt Larkin, a Republican candidate seeking to unseat Ferguson, said in a statement: “The death of George Floyd was tragic and horribly heartbreaking. But this extreme takeover of an entire Seattle neighborhood isn’t the way to enact the change we need.”
Alleging that Ferguson “remains silent while protestors take over our city and call for disbanding our police department,” he said the state needs “an Attorney General who will enforce our laws, not ignore them.”