The City of Seattle has announced agreement with organizers at the Capitol Hill protest site that has sprouted around the boarded-up East Precinct that will consolidate the camp and demonstration area on the now art-filled E Pine and in Cal Anderson Park:
Minor changes to the protest zone will implement safer and sturdier barriers to protect individuals in this area, allow traffic to move throughout the Capitol Hill neighborhood, ease access for residents of apartment building in the surrounding areas, and help local businesses manage deliveries and logistics. Additionally all plans have been crafted with the goal of allowing access for emergency personnel including fire trucks.
Seattle Department of Transportation crews were busy Tuesday morning moving and replacing the many large barriers left behind by Seattle Police that camp organizers had used to cordon off the streets and block the area to vehicle traffic. The new setup includes heavy safety barriers used to create new lanes for traffic while protecting protest zones near the precinct. It includes many softer barriers to help direct activities — the new plywood will also add to the opportunities for painting, tagging, and art in the area.
— Catherine Crandall (@AmliaWellness) June 16, 2020
#CHAZ / #CHOP – Good Morning. Looks like @seattledot is in the CHOP this morning building wooden structures to cover cement barriers for artists to use to paint on. Several other upgrades occurring as well. pic.twitter.com/c5GwzqFYC8
— Omari Salisbury (@Omarisal) June 16, 2020
— HeyWilliamHey (@heywilliamhey) June 16, 2020
There had been tension amongst organizers and activists over the last few around the extent CHAZ/CHOP should coordinate with city officials and area residents/businesses. pic.twitter.com/e6GhhRe2ls
— matt (@mmitgang) June 16, 2020
The changes come amid concerns from many residents, business owners, and property owners about the long-term plans for the camp and how to deal with day to day issues like deliveries or moving trucks. It will also help address safety issues identified by Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins who has been a regular presence at the camp.
Worries about public safety and Seattle Police’s role in the neighborhood after its exit from the precinct will persist. In its announcement, the city couldn’t announce anything like reconfigured street lanes that will change the issues around policing the neighborhood. “The Seattle Police Department will dispatch to respond to significant life-safety issues in the area,” the announcement reads. “The Seattle Police Department’s definition of life-safety issues may include an active shooter incident, an assault, a structure fire, significant medical emergency (i.e. heart attack, stroke, trauma) and other incidents that threaten a person’s life safety. ”
UPDATE: Another example of SPD and the protest community finding ways to work together? SPD says this man was stopped by protesters after he busted out the East Precinct’s lobby window Saturday. Police are looking for more information to identify the suspect.
The camp’s growth as a symbol and center of activity is astonishing. It has been one week since SPD backed away from the hard lines it had maintained around the East Precinct citing FBI warnings about threats of violence and arson. Worries about Free Capitol Hill and a so-called “autonomous zone” have now become a daily talking point for the Trump administration.
On the hyperlocal level, the city says the changes were focused on helping to clear 12th Ave:
A top priority for community access is opening 12th Avenue, a City arterial road, which typically carries more traffic. Under these changes, 12th Ave will become one way on the south side of Pine St in order to accommodate a protest zone in the west lanes and allow access and movement of vehicles in the east lanes. An alley access zone was also set up on the South side of Pine between 11th and 12th to allow for apartment building access.
The city announcement does not have much to say about Cal Anderson but it is clear the Capitol Hill central park will play a growing role in any longterm stay for demonstrators. It is filling with tents housing protesters and a growing community of campers. “Capitol Hill and Cal Anderson Park have long been a gathering place for justice,” the city announcement reads.
The Durkan administration also used the camp agreement to address the much larger issues that need resolution around the movement. The city says it “reached out” to community groups over the weekend including Black Lives Matter, Urban League, Choose 180, Not This Time, Africatown and others “to share the plan for traffic and safety mitigation in this area. ” Addressing the demands for defunding SPD and increased spending on social and equity programs will require more than new street barriers.
“Preserving a space for demonstrators to come together is one of several actions the City has taken to respond to the community’s call for change,” the city announcement reads. “Over the last two weeks, Mayor Durkan has prioritized meeting with community leaders and demonstration organizers, heard their concerns, and is committed to enduring systemic changes to reimagine what policing looks like in Seattle and to addressing systemic racism.”
“The City recognizes that more must be done, and the Mayor and department leaders are committed to that work,” it concludes.
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