Capitol Hill residents have grown accustomed to the choppy growl of helicopters overhead during the past month.
The Seattle neighborhood has attracted all forms of attention since the blocks near Cal Anderson Park began hosting sprawling Black Lives Matter-inspired protests and, eventually, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, a police-free area later renamed the Capitol Hill Organized (or Occupied, depending on your source) Protest. The clamor from above has usually arrived at night, when protesters and other visitors have flooded the zone and marched down adjacent streets. But this morning, the noise arrived before alarm clocks went off.
Shortly after 5am, Seattle Police swarmed the perimeter of the East Precinct, the building officers had abandoned more than three weeks earlier and remaining CHOP protesters have continued to surround. Officers are issuing dispersal orders, directing those occupying Cal Anderson Park or public rights of way around the East Precinct to leave or be subject to arrest.
The department cited an executive order from mayor Jenny Durkan as the reason for its morning sweep. “After significant national attention, many protestors have left the area but the conditions in the Cal Anderson Park Area have deteriorated to the point where public health, life, and safety are threatened by activities in and around this area,” the order says.
In addition to property damage and other forms of rising crime, the order specifically points to several shootings in and around the zone over the past two weeks that have left two people dead, one of them a 16-year-old who was killed Monday morning. “Enough is enough,” SPD chief Carmen Best said in a separate statement. “The CHOP has become lawless and brutal. Four shootings—two fatal—robberies, assaults, violence and countless property crimes have occurred in this several block area.”
Even as the CHOP clears out, Best’s department will still need to answer a slew of lingering questions about those crimes. Beyond figuring out exactly how and why a 16-year-old was shot and killed (and a 14-year-old was seriously injured) in Monday’s incident, the department is investigating the shooting of 33-year-old DeJuan Young, who says he took fire from a group who called him a racial slur. That episode happened on the same morning 19-year-old Horace Lorenzo Anderson was shot and killed nearby.
For the latest on CHOP clearance, Omari Salisbury of Converge Media continues his tireless reporting on this stream.