Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced on Monday that police would be returning to the area known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, effectively ending the social experiment in the four-block zone. The move comes after the third person was shot in the police-free zone.
“A recent silent march had nearly 85,000 peaceful attendees whose message was clear: we need change,” Durkan wrote, noting that she has supported the tens of thousands of people who gathered in Capitol Hill to express their desire for change.
At night, however, she said that three different people had been shot and one died, setting back the city’s progress against gun violence.
While she said that people were welcome to continue peacefully gathering on Capitol Hill, the violence has impacted the residents who live in the area and the businesses there, which undermines the demonstrator’s message for justice and equality.
She also pledged to reform the city’s police department, acknowledging that an armed officer isn’t always the right person to respond to a 911 call, particularly when the issue involves a mental health problem, addiction, or domestic violence.
“We must deploy the right person with the right skills into a situation – like mental health specialists, domestic violence counselors, or addiction counselors. We must expand programs that follow these models, like SPD’s Community Service Officers and @SeattleFire’s Health One,” she wrote.
“But Chief @carmenbest has made it clear to me that for the short-term, our Police Department will need East Precinct to ensure public safety and appropriately respond to more than 100,000 9-1-1 calls. In the near future, SPD will be peacefully returning to the East Precinct,” she added.
Protesters took over several blocks of Seattle’s Capitol Hill after nights of demonstrations against the killing of George Floyd forced the officers in the East Precinct to board up and abandon their headquarters.
Protesters moved into the zone, which they called the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone or Capitol Hill Occupied Protest. Since then, many of the protesters have been peaceful, growing gardens, offering lectures, and airing documentary films for the people occupying the area.
However, violence at night has marred the movement, and Durkan has clashed with President Donald Trump over how to handle the situation. Trump has repeatedly called on Durkan to break up the protests, while the Seattle mayor has admonished him to allow democracy to function unimpeded.
At one point, the president threatened Durkan with federal intervention, which she rebuffed.