Q&A: What's next for Seattle protesters' 'autonomous zone'?

  • A cyclist rides near a sign that reads "You are now entering free Cap Hill," Thursday, June 11, 2020, inside what is being called the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" in Seattle. Following days of violent confrontations with protesters, police in Seattle have largely withdrawn from the neighborhood, and protesters have created a festival-like scene that has President Donald Trump fuming.

    A cyclist rides near a sign that reads "You are now entering free Cap Hill," Thursday, June 11, 2020, inside what is being called the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" in Seattle. Following days of violent confrontations with protesters, police in Seattle have largely withdrawn from the neighborhood, and protesters have created a festival-like scene that has President Donald Trump fuming. Associated Press

  • Protesters listen to a speaker as they sit in front of the Seattle Police Department East Precinct building, which has been boarded up and abandoned except for a few officers inside, Thursday, June 11, 2020, inside what is being called the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" in Seattle. Following days of violent confrontations with protesters, police in Seattle have largely withdrawn from the neighborhood.

    Protesters listen to a speaker as they sit in front of the Seattle Police Department East Precinct building, which has been boarded up and abandoned except for a few officers inside, Thursday, June 11, 2020, inside what is being called the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" in Seattle. Following days of violent confrontations with protesters, police in Seattle have largely withdrawn from the neighborhood. Associated Press

  • Mark Henry Jr., center, a Black Lives Matter leader, speaks into a megaphone in a doorway of the Seattle Police Department East Precinct building, which has been boarded up and abandoned except for a few officers inside, Thursday, June 11, 2020, in Seattle. The building is located in what is being called the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone." Following days of violent confrontations with protesters, police have largely withdrawn from the neighborhood.

    Mark Henry Jr., center, a Black Lives Matter leader, speaks into a megaphone in a doorway of the Seattle Police Department East Precinct building, which has been boarded up and abandoned except for a few officers inside, Thursday, June 11, 2020, in Seattle. The building is located in what is being called the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone." Following days of violent confrontations with protesters, police have largely withdrawn from the neighborhood. Associated Press

  • A modified sign for the Seattle Police Dept. East Precinct building, which has been boarded up and abandoned except for a few officers inside, is shown, Thursday, June 11, 2020, inside what is being called the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" in Seattle.

    A modified sign for the Seattle Police Dept. East Precinct building, which has been boarded up and abandoned except for a few officers inside, is shown, Thursday, June 11, 2020, inside what is being called the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" in Seattle. Associated Press

  • An artist paints one of the large letters that read "Black Lives Matter" on a street near Cal Anderson Park, Thursday, June 11, 2020, inside what is being called the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" in Seattle. Following days of violent confrontations with protesters, police in Seattle have largely withdrawn from the neighborhood.

    An artist paints one of the large letters that read "Black Lives Matter" on a street near Cal Anderson Park, Thursday, June 11, 2020, inside what is being called the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" in Seattle. Following days of violent confrontations with protesters, police in Seattle have largely withdrawn from the neighborhood. Associated Press

  • A protester who did not give his name walks with Seattle Police assistant chiefs Adrian Diaz, left, and Deanna Nollette, right, Thursday, June 11, 2020, inside what is being called the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" in Seattle. The officers were attempting to walk to the department's East Precinct building, which has been boarded up and abandoned except for a few officers inside, but the protester, in a move that angered some other protesters, said he would walk with the officers to a side entrance of the precinct rather than have them walk directly through a crowd of angry protesters.

    A protester who did not give his name walks with Seattle Police assistant chiefs Adrian Diaz, left, and Deanna Nollette, right, Thursday, June 11, 2020, inside what is being called the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" in Seattle. The officers were attempting to walk to the department's East Precinct building, which has been boarded up and abandoned except for a few officers inside, but the protester, in a move that angered some other protesters, said he would walk with the officers to a side entrance of the precinct rather than have them walk directly through a crowd of angry protesters. Associated Press

  • An artist paints one of the large letters that read "Black Lives Matter" on a street near Cal Anderson Park, Thursday, June 11, 2020, inside what is being called the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" in Seattle. Following days of violent confrontations with protesters, police in Seattle have largely withdrawn from the neighborhood, and protesters have created a festival-like scene.

    An artist paints one of the large letters that read "Black Lives Matter" on a street near Cal Anderson Park, Thursday, June 11, 2020, inside what is being called the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" in Seattle. Following days of violent confrontations with protesters, police in Seattle have largely withdrawn from the neighborhood, and protesters have created a festival-like scene. Associated Press

  • Cyclists gather at Cal Anderson Park after taking part in the "Ride for Justice," Thursday, June 11, 2020, Seattle. People rode to the park and then took part in a rally to protest against police brutality and racial inequality.

    Cyclists gather at Cal Anderson Park after taking part in the "Ride for Justice," Thursday, June 11, 2020, Seattle. People rode to the park and then took part in a rally to protest against police brutality and racial inequality. Associated Press

  • Protesters display a flag that they said flew over a protest camp during Seattle's World Trade Organization protests in 1999 as they speak at a rally in front of the Seattle Police Department East Precinct building, which has been boarded up and abandoned except for a few officers inside, Thursday, June 11, 2020, inside what is being called the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" in Seattle. Following days of violent confrontations with protesters, police have largely withdrawn from the neighborhood.

    Protesters display a flag that they said flew over a protest camp during Seattle's World Trade Organization protests in 1999 as they speak at a rally in front of the Seattle Police Department East Precinct building, which has been boarded up and abandoned except for a few officers inside, Thursday, June 11, 2020, inside what is being called the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" in Seattle. Following days of violent confrontations with protesters, police have largely withdrawn from the neighborhood. Associated Press

  • People light candles at a growing memorial to victims of police violence, including George Floyd, Thursday, June 11, 2020, inside what is being called the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" in Seattle. Following days of violent confrontations with protesters, police in Seattle have largely withdrawn from the neighborhood, and protesters have created a festival-like scene that has President Donald Trump fuming.

    People light candles at a growing memorial to victims of police violence, including George Floyd, Thursday, June 11, 2020, inside what is being called the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" in Seattle. Following days of violent confrontations with protesters, police in Seattle have largely withdrawn from the neighborhood, and protesters have created a festival-like scene that has President Donald Trump fuming. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 6/12/2020 9:37 PM

SEATTLE -- For nearly a week, people opposing police brutality and racial injustice have turned a Seattle neighborhood into ground zero for their protests, creating a carnival-like atmosphere with speakers and drum circles near a largely abandoned police station.

While protesters say it shows how people can manage without police intervention, it's drawn scorn from President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly threatened to 'œgo in' to stop the 'œanarchists" he says have taken over the liberal city after officers withdrew to ease tensions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Washington's governor and Seattle's mayor, both Democrats, have rebuked Trump and say local officials are trying to find a peaceful resolution following demonstrations that turned violent last weekend.

In the latest twist, a U.S. judge on Friday ordered Seattle police to temporarily stop using tear gas, pepper spray and flash-bang devices to break up largely peaceful protests.

A look at what's going on in Seattle:

WHAT IS THE 'œCAPITOL HILL AUTONOMOUS ZONE'?

It stretches for several blocks in the densely packed Capitol Hill neighborhood just east of downtown Seattle and sprung up after police removed barricades near a police station Monday and largely left the building.

It came after officers used tear gas, pepper spray and flash-bang devices last weekend to disperse demonstrators they said were assaulting them with projectiles.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Signs along the sidewalks proclaim 'œYou are entering free Capitol Hill' and 'œNo cop co-op." Throughout the day, speakers use microphones to discuss their demands. Artists have painted a blocklong 'œBlack Lives Matter' mural on the street. Many businesses are still open.

While there are makeshift barricades that block the area to vehicles, people walk in and out freely. And some officers have been back during the week to check on the police station.

WHAT DO PROTESTERS WANT?

They come from a variety of groups and interests, ranging from Black Lives Matter organizers to labor and neighborhood groups. Most want the police precinct to be turned into a community center and much of the department's funding to be redirected to health and social services.

'œWhat you see out here is people coming together and loving each other,' said Mark Henry Jr. of Black Lives Matter. 'œI see people coming from different walks of life ... learning from each other.'

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

WHAT IS TRUMP SAYING?

In a series of tweets, Trump has taunted Gov. Jay Inslee and Mayor Jenny Durkan and said Seattle had been taken over by 'œanarchists.'

'œThese Liberal Dems don't have a clue. The terrorists burn and pillage our cities, and they think it is just wonderful, even the death. Must end this Seattle takeover now!" Trump tweeted Friday.

His comments come as he's pushed for a stronger response to protesters nationwide. Following last weekend's unrest, the protests in Seattle have been largely peaceful.

In a Thursday interview with the Fox News Channel, the president said, 'œIf we have to go in, we're going to go in. These people are not going to occupy a major portion of a great city.'

In response, Durkan said it would be 'œunconstitutional and illegal to send military to Seattle."

HOW HAVE POLICE REACTED?

Police Chief Carmen Best said the decision to leave the Capitol Hill precinct wasn't hers and she was angry about it. In a video message to officers this week, she also reiterated that police had been harassed and assaulted during protests.

'œUltimately, the city had other plans for the building and relented to severe public pressure,' Best said.

Durkan said in a statement that she decided to remove the barriers around the station in an effort to deescalate tensions.

Best said in an interview Friday on 'œGood Morning America" that officials had to remove some personnel for a short period, then it became unsafe for officers to go back.

Police initially said protesters in the 'œautonomous zone' had harassed and intimidated residents and businesses but later eased off those statements and said they had no concrete evidence of that.

While Best said she supports free speech, 'œthis is not that."

WHAT'S NEXT?

The police chief said Friday that officials were working to get officers back into the precinct, stressing the 'œneed to have officers responding to calls in a timely fashion. And with the occupation that's taking place, we're not able to do so in a timely way.'

She says police want to ensure they're responding to community concerns, keeping people safe and making their response 'œproportionate to what we're addressing."

On the first weekend of protests in late May, there was widespread destruction downtown as people smashed storefront windows and stole merchandise. Last weekend, police used tear gas to disperse crowds on Capitol Hill that they said had become unruly, soon after pledging to temporarily stop using a type of tear gas.

Some City Council members and other elected officials say authorities overreacted, and both Durkan and Best have faced calls to resign.

The new court ruling added to the criticism, saying a Black Lives Matter group that sued this week made a strong case that the indiscriminate use of force during largely peaceful protests is unconstitutional. The federal judge said weapons like tear gas and pepper spray fail to target 'œany single agitator or criminal" and are especially problematic during the coronavirus pandemic.

The mayor said she doesn't want a repeat of last weekend's violence and tweeted that she visited the Capital Hill area Friday to speak with organizers about moving forward.

___

Associated Press photographer Ted Warren contributed to this report.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.