Over a dozen enterprises are taking the city of Seattle to court over its treatment of the ‘autonomous’ police-free area that popped up just two weeks back, alleging that the city has failed to maintain fundamental public safety.
On the issue of failure to observe basic public safety guidelines, the plaintiffs argue that the city government regarded the protesters who took over a six-block locality at the beginning of this month after police waived their East Precinct station.
The area was labeled as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), but was later termed as the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP). The unpoliced encampment was soon tormented by crime, vandalism, and brutality. early this week, several gunfights and shootings over a 48-hour duration resulted in one death.
Seattle’s Mayor Jenny Durkan initially termed the protest as a “peaceful expression of our community’s collective grief,” but following that has pledged to restore order. Though, Durkan’s change of heart seems to be too little, too late for the enterprises that have lawyered-up.
Recorded on Wednesday, the legal complaint mentions that “violence, vandalism, excessive noise, public drug use, and other crimes are rampant” in the area, and that the city’s reluctance to interfere has led to “elimination of basic public safety” in the neighborhood.
Even though they support the anti-racist, anti-police violence message of the protesters, the plaintiffs stated that the encampment – which has been protected by barricades, and at times even by armed warders – has obstructed the public entry to their businesses.
The lawsuit is claiming compensation for lost business, property destructions, and dispossession of their rights as property owners.
Even though the encampment has contracted in size, the rest of the protesters have been getting ready for a confrontation with the city. The group has intensified barricades around the East Precinct, pledging that they won’t leave willingly. Earlier this week, Durkan declared that the police would come back to the area, but has indicated that they will do so in peace.
A representative from the mayor’s office stated that the city authorities were trying to negotiate with protesters with the hope of discovering a “path forward” which “keeps people safe.”