City workers built a wall of concrete blocks to fortify the police department’s East Precinct on Friday, following a suspected arson attack this week while officers were inside the building.
The barrier wraps around the building at 11th Avenue and Pine Street — where during confrontations this spring, police temporarily abandoned the precinct, while demonstrators set up the Capitol Hill Organized Protest or “CHOP” on the street and Cal Anderson Park, before the city retook the territory in early July.
“Officers will continue to be stationed in the precinct and respond to 9-1-1 calls in the area,” a city statement said Friday.
The federal government this week charged a 19-year-old Alaska man, Desmond David-Pitts, with arson. He’s accused of setting trash bags on fire Monday night in the sally-port, where police cars exit a secure steel door. Someone else tried to block a door nearby using quick-dry cement, authorities say, but police escaped. David-Pitts participated in protests against police brutality in Alaska this year after his 16-year-old brother was killed by Anchorage police, according to local news reports.
Mike Solan, president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, called Monday’s fire an “act of domestic terrorism,” along with another Monday incident, in which SPOG-posted video depicts two people throwing Molotov cocktails at the union’s headquarters in Sodo.
City departments will take other steps to protect the East Precinct so it resembles the newer West Precinct, said a statement Friday from Mayor Jenny Durkan’s staff. The city will be equipping East Precinct with additional fire extinguishers, and “securing exposed windows,” it said.
The statement points to other incidents including a fire set next to the police station in June, and an explosion that broke a temporary plywood wall.
Tens of thousands of people have protested in Seattle streets, as in many U.S. cities, to address the killing of Black people by law enforcement — and often, the defunding of police — after a Minneapolis officer killed Black city resident George Floyd by holding his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes on May 25.
Most protests in Seattle have been peaceful, but some have resulted in damaged buildings and fireworks targeted at police. Police on Capitol Hill on several occasions sprayed tear gas and shot stun grenades toward protest crowds, in one case apparently causing a young woman to go into cardiac arrest.
The triple-stacked wall erected Friday is in addition to a shorter barrier, and a chain-link fence, previously set next to the police station.
East Precinct was originally the Willys-Overland car dealership last century, Capitol Hill Seattle Blog pointed out. For that reason, it lacks bollards, parking lots, staircases and abutments that shield modern law-enforcement buildings, especially federal buildings.