City of Seattle determined to dismantle 'CHOP' but strategy on how to do that is murky

It took multiple shootings in a span of 48 hours at the autonomous area known as the ‘CHOP’ for Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan to establish future plans of the zone.

“It’s time for people to go home,” Durkan said.

On Monday, both Durkan and Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said the escalating violence is not sustainable and they announced plans to have police officers move back into the East Precinct.

“I’m not a politician, this isn’t a debate about first amendment rights, this is about life or death so we need a plan,” Best said.

But as of Tuesday, the city’s plan on how to dismantle the occupiers is still murky at best.

Q13 News obtained video from Converge Media showing some of the reaction inside the ‘CHOP’ after Durkan’s press conference on Monday. It showed protesters linking arms and voicing support to stay at the 'CHOP' no matter what.

Converge Media has several citizen journalists embedded in the area, including Bobbie Stills, who also lives in the Capitol Hill area.

“They have a voice and they will use that voice,” Stills said.

Stills stated he has talked to all types of protesters both peaceful and those who have been violent.

“We have seen with our own eyes the violence that has happened out here. People are out here armed, some people do mean to protect, some people are here to hurt, it can only get worse as I am seeing it,” he said.

He’s urging elected leaders to enter the autonomous zone and find common ground.

“The city council members have not been present here, we’ve had one, that is Sawant,” said Stills.

During Tuesday’s committee meeting, council member Lisa Herbold partly blamed Seattle police for the escalating violence at the ‘CHOP.’

“It is very likely that the CHOP grew to be this situation that we are addressing, the situation right now, because police abandoned the East precinct. If neither the mayor nor the chief authorized leaving the East precinct building, who did?”

Herbold also responding to Chief Best who made it clear on Monday that knee jerk policies imposed by council will have long term impacts. The council recently voted to suspend the use of things like tear gas to disperse crowds.

Best said officers have batons and guns which are not safe to use for crowd control.

SPD said officers responding to Saturday’s shooting had to retreat from the ‘CHOP’ after being met by a hostile crowd.

“A life may have been saved, if it not for hasty legislation,” Best said.

On Monday, Best asked city council members to help stop more violence from happening.

“I don’t understand how tear gas could have helped that young man’s life on Saturday when police arrived he was already gone from the area,” Herbold said.

SPD on Saturday said responding officers, who retreated, at that moment did not know where the victims were exactly. The department said they left the scene because they felt unsafe and worried the situation would escalate after being met by an aggressive crowd.

Stills said he hopes Mayor Durkan will continue to try and bring ‘CHOP' organizers to the table to discuss how to safely dismantle the movement.

But he admits it’s unclear who the ‘CHOP’ leaders are. He said the mood changes in the autonomous zone everyday with many coming and going with different priorities and agendas.

As for the question on who exactly called for SPD to completely abandon the precinct, the answer is ambiguous.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Durkan explained that the mayor felt the barriers blocking the precinct needed to come down after days of tension between protesters and police.

After long consultations with Chief Best, the spokesperson said the mayor felt that removing the barriers was a way to deescalate the situation.

The Mayor’s office also stated that because of potential threats to the precinct, SPD Command Staff chose to remove officers, equipment and other confidential information.