SEATTLE - Crews arrived with heavy equipment arrived early Friday at Seattle’s “occupied” protest zone, apparently ready to dismantle barriers set up by demonstrators, but halted work when demonstrators resisted, including by lying on top of some of the makeshift structures.
Stefanie Formas, a spokeswoman for Mayor Jenny Durkan, said the goal is to improve access for neighborhood residents. She said city officials would discuss the plans later Friday morning with protest organizers.
Durkan has expressed support for the protest, calling it “a peaceful expression of our community’s collective grief and their desire to build a better world.”
The SDOT workers arrived around 6:00 a.m. Friday with trucks and heavy machinery.
An hour later no work had started, but workers were staging on 12th Ave. at the edges of the protest. But by 8:00 a.m., SDOT crews and the few police officers at the scene appeared to leave the area.
At least one protester was seen laying in the street, but moved a short time later.
Another protester kept saying "no agitating." Several cars were also parked in the street on 12th Ave.
The only area where barricades were actually removed was on Pine St. near 13th Ave.
How did we get here?
But following several shootings in the area, Durkan said the city would wind down the protest zone, at first by encouraging demonstrators to leave. In addition, she said police would return to a nearby precinct that was abandoned following clashes with demonstrators.
The work crews intended to remove the barricades, not protesters, Sam Zimbabwe, city transportation director, told local journalist Omari Salisbury, who has been live-streaming the protest.
Workers were preserving artwork that had been painted on the wooden barricades, Zimbabwe said, adding that the department would work to return it to the people who created it.
“We’re not trying to have conflict,” Zimbabwe said.
A number of protesters remained camped in tents outside the East Precinct. The city has not given a timeline for officers’ return to the building except to say it would be in the near future.
Protesters have called for cutting the police budget 50% and spending the savings on community health and other programs. The mayor has proposed a vastly more modest cut of $20 million to help balance the city’s budget through the end of this year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.