City of Seattle Exploits Shootings to Crack Down on CHOP

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Say bye to the precinct, CHOP. Also, maybe to CHOP.

Say bye to the precinct, CHOP. Also, maybe to CHOP. Nathalie Graham

After three people were shot this weekend near the boundaries of the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP), Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that changes were coming. Without exactly saying it, Durkan called for the end of CHOP.

“It’s time for people to go home,” Durkan said. “It’s time to restore Cal Anderson Park and Capitol Hill. The impacts on the businesses and residents and community are now too much.”

In the span of 48 hours this past weekend, three people were shot in two shootings. One Black man who was only 19 years old was killed. The Seattle Police Department (SPD) is currently investigating both incidents. However, the narrative that SPD is telling around the events is different from the one the medics on the ground said. SPD blamed a “hostile” crowd for the delay in getting to the scene of the crime.

On Monday, SPD Chief Carmen Best said that if the Seattle City Council hadn’t banned less-lethal weapons like rubber bullets and tear gas, officers could have responded sooner. “A life might have been saved if not for the circumstances created by hasty legislation,” Best said, referring to the council’s ban which won’t go into effect for 30 days. SPD is, however, restricted from using less-lethal weapons because of an injunction granted by a federal judge, a result of the lawsuit brought by the ACLU against the City of Seattle. (I’m a plaintiff in the case.)

Regardless of how much SPD needs tear gas to save lives (???), timelines of Saturday night’s shooting, in particular, don’t match up with what Best said on Monday. According to CHOP medics and SPD’s bodycam footage, civilians had transported the 19-year-old victim to Harborview Medical Center before SPD even arrived.

“The suggestion that the crowd interfered with the access of victims I believe defies belief,” Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who is chair of the council’s public safety committee, said in a statement. “Because the first victim had already been transferred and the second victim hadn’t been shot yet.”

Herbold cited bodycam and video evidence that showed SPD wasn’t at the scene until 18 minutes after the shooting happened. None of this was brought up by Best in her comments.

“Countless individuals are there to engage in peaceful demonstrations,” Best said. “But there are also groups of individuals engaging in shootings, a rape, arson… I have the police reports right here.” She waved papers in the air. “I am not making this up.”

According to Durkan, CHOP during the day vs. CHOP during the night is… well, as different as night and day. And more violent. For that reason, she’s asking the protest to stop at night and for people to leave. It’s unclear how she will enforce this. There are dozens of tents still pitched in Cal Anderson Park.

“It would not be an effective strategy to simply send police in to try to clear the area,” Durkan said. So, “de-escalation” teams from the Black community are going to do outreach and ask people to leave the park. The Human Services Department will also be there to connect homeless people with shelter.

Durkan also announced that the East Precinct on Capitol Hill, which was vacated by the Seattle Police Department over two weeks ago, will be returned to SPD. “We will be doing it peacefully and in the near future,” Durkan said.

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