Protests against police brutality and racial injustice are back to being nightly standoffs between demonstrators and officers in the streets after Seattle police cleared out the CHOP, or Capitol Hill Organized Protest, near Cal Anderson Park and the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct. Ten people were arrested Thursday night and Friday morning, some on Capitol Hill and some downtown, adding to the dozens already arrested this week.
King County prosecutors say they don’t plan to charge nonviolent protesters, and in a statement Friday, they underscored the rights of protesters to “non-violently air grievances.”
Protests continued Friday night, when a large crowd of marchers, led by LGTBQ people of color, walked from Magnuson Park to a street in Mayor Jenny Durkan’s neighborhood. Marchers sometimes danced to drums, and a pulsing dance beat on speakers, then stopped to hear speeches.
Another group walked from East Pine Street – at the former Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) zone – toward downtown, prompting the Washington State Patrol to declare a temporary closure of Interstate 5, a near-nightly event. They chanted “Black Lives Matter,” for Durkan to resign, and for 50% police defunding. Black Collective Voice held a teach-in at Jimi Hendrix Park, in the Central Area.
Earlier, Seattle police said they arrested three people outside their West Precinct downtown shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday on suspicion of property destruction. People streaming the gathering live on social media said the group was giving speeches and eating pizza when officers showed up and started making arrests.
Seven more people were arrested starting around 1 a.m. Friday near Broadway and East Pine Street on Capitol Hill, on suspicion of assault, harassment and failure to disperse. Seattle police tweeted at 1:37 a.m. Friday that their commanders were issuing a dispersal order to the crowd there, recommending exiting the area to the north and west.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an executive order Tuesday night declaring that gathering in the area in and around Cal Anderson Park was unlawful assembly requiring immediate action from city agencies. City officials then moved into the area and cleared it out starting around 5 a.m. Wednesday.
Since that time, protesters and police have clashed several times in Seattle. From Wednesday to early Thursday, 69 people were arrested, according to police.
Jail records showed that 19 people were booked into the King County Jail between midnight and 7:30 a.m. Friday, but it was not immediately clear which of those were arrested at the West Precinct or at Broadway and Pine.
In its Friday statement, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office said it has not charged nonviolent protesters, “and we have no plans to do so. Our position hasn’t changed since the first protest in response to the murder of George Floyd.”
None of the CHOP-clearing arrests have led to criminal charges from the prosecutor’s office, the statement said. The office says it has charged 10 Seattle and Bellevue protest-related cases since May: six involving a gun charge, one a hate crime investigation and three burglary cases. During the time CHOP was active, charges were filed in three cases: a burglary case, a burglary and assault case, and a reckless burning case, according to the statement.
The statement underscored the prosecuting attorney office’s “power to evaluate policies, laws and practices for racial equity. We have the power to change those things that perpetuate institutional racism. We will continue to listen to the experience of those who feel the sting of racism every day, work for the reform of the criminal justice system, and always view our goals through this lens of racial equity.”
On Friday afternoon, city workers pressure-washed surfaces throughout Cal Anderson Park, scrubbing the area clean of graffiti and street art, though traces of paint lingered on some structures. Police had blocked off the park and surrounding streets with police tape, requiring pedestrians to ask permission before passing through the area. CHOP’s famous guerrilla garden — the subject of a congenial Tweet from Mayor Jenny Durkan at the start of the occupation — appeared unwatered but mostly intact.
Veti Comesongsri, owner of Post Options shipping center on 12th Avenue East and East Pike Street, said business had been down since the police swept CHOP early Wednesday morning. “Every time something new happens, people call to ask: ‘Are you open? Is it safe?’” he said. “Then business stabilizes.”
He said the demonstrators hadn’t been a nuisance, aside from somebody spraying graffiti on the storefront. “The protesters didn’t give us any problems,” he said. “Some even came in to use our services and ship things.”
Staff reporters Mike Lindblom and Elise Takahama contributed to this report.