A concrete wall that went up around the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct during last summer’s protests on Capitol Hill is finally gone — and has been replaced by a tall security fence.
City transportation workers started removing the large concrete blocks, which wrapped around the building at 12th Avenue and Pine Street and blocked sidewalks and bike lanes for more than eight months, earlier this week. The barrier was constructed to fortify the building from damage incurred during protests against police brutality following George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, police have said.
In a Wednesday statement, Seattle police said the city made the decision to take down the wall “after hearing from residents, business owners and community leaders in Capitol Hill.”
Because of past damage to the precinct, however, police said in the statement that the building is now surrounded by a “fenced, albeit significantly reduced, security perimeter” that will “allow foot and bike traffic to resume around the precinct, unimpeded.”
The tightly-woven black fence reaches about two-thirds of the way up the building’s first story.
“We know now is a pivotal moment for our department, and we know the barriers around the precinct have been a stark visual reminder of the rifts that exist in our city,” the Wednesday statement said. “We know our department has more work to do, and we look forward to the challenge of strengthening our relationships in our communities.”
A spokesperson for Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office said this week that Durkan and interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz had been discussing the removal of the concrete barrier from both the East and West precincts for months.
“While these two locations have been frequent targets of vandalism, arson, and graffiti, safely reopening and reducing barriers between the Department and the community at these precincts is a shared goal of Mayor Durkan and Chief Diaz and has been underway in stages for some time,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
Seattle police declined to answer further questions about the temporary fence, including how long it would be up and how much it cost.
City workers assembled the concrete wall around the precinct building last August, after a 19-year-old man from Alaska was accused of setting a fire to the building while officers were inside.
At the time, the city also pointed to other incidents as reasons for erecting the wall, including a fire set next to the police station in June and an explosion that broke a temporary plywood wall. City officials also said last summer they planned to equip the building with additional fire extinguishers and help with “securing exposed windows.”
Since the barrier went up, many Capitol Hill neighbors have complained about the blocked sidewalks and safety concerns for bicyclists, drivers and pedestrians, the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reported.
In response, police said last month that work to remove the wall would begin soon in order to “reduce obstacles” between officers and the community. It added that the timeline would “depend on whether the building again becomes a target for arson and property damage.”
Remaining broken windows, police said, would be temporarily covered with plywood.
“It is the Department’s hope to fully reopen the East Precinct to our neighbors as soon as possible,” police said in the April 2 statement.
Seattle Times staff reporter Mike Lindblom contributed to this story.