Pickups carrying equipment and a moving truck have been seen leaving the East Precinct and a mobile shredding unit was reported at the building. Meanwhile, the latest layout for barrier fencing at 11th and Pine was being attached Monday with fasteners drilled into the pavement.
It wasn’t clear if Mayor Jenny Durkan and Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best are preparing the precinct headquarters building in the heart of the Capitol Hill neighborhood for evacuation — or an ongoing battle.
But Monday afternoon, the Seattle Police Department announced it will reopen the streets surrounding the East Precinct, “allowing demonstrators to march on Capitol Hill.”
The SPD announcement including a message from Assistant Chief of Patrol Operations Tom Mahaffey sent to officers about the decision:
To the Women and Men of the Seattle Police Department,
The decision has been made to allow demonstrators to march past the East Precinct later today. Your safety and the security of our facilities are my highest priorities. Additional measures are currently underway to enhance our ongoing efforts to insure the security of our East Precinct and provide for the safety of all our officers.
We will have personnel in place should the need arise to swiftly address acts of violence and/or property destruction.
I want to express my sincere appreciation and admiration for your continued efforts to protect this City and one another during this extremely challenging time.
Assistant Chief Tom Mahaffey
“The East Precinct will remain staffed,” the announcement reads.
There have now been multiple pickups full of police equipment LEAVING the east precinct. Yesterday framed items and boxes were seen leaving. A mobile shredding truck also arrived earlier. #seattleprotest #seattleprotestcomms pic.twitter.com/Y5ALUWDXLo
— matt (@mmitgang) June 8, 2020
A department spokesperson said he could not offer better clarity on the timing of the re-opening but that preparations were being put into place today.
The mayor provided mixed messages over the weekend, both promising a deescalation at the scene and new city resources to help the communities around 11th and Pine keep the area safe for an ongoing, long-term protest. Durkan also made the case for why SPD must mount a strong defense of the precinct headquarters due to what she said was “specific information from the FBI” about threats to the 12th and Pine facility.
The result? A key policing facility in the central city now stands on even more uncertain ground and a neighborhood locked down for more than a week will no longer have to pass through police checkpoints to access homes and work.
Can confirm visually that SPD has started the process. First time a rented moving truck has been within the secured space. Will monitor items being brought out. #seattleprotest pic.twitter.com/BhMIKIMky5
— Dustin Akers (@DustinAkers) June 8, 2020
“Capitol Hill is a very special place for me. It is where I went when I first came out; it is where I both saw horrendous acts of hate and where the LGBTQ community carved out a place of safety,” Durkan said in an address to media Sunday night. “I know that safety was shattered for many by images, sounds and gas more fitting of a war zone: I am sorry.”
Durkan said Sunday she and Best have “talked multiple times a day” about “escalating and de-militarizing the posture, and removing the barriers downtown and on Capitol Hill.”
Calling the neighborhood “heavily used and damaged” by the events, the mayor also told CHS that Seattle Public Utilities has been cleaning the area following each night of anti-police protest and that the city’s office of economic development has been in touch with area businesses to find out what assistance is needed.
But those efforts pale in comparison with the community aid and support stations so far put in place by volunteer groups. And they don’t address the health issues that arose as the Occupy protest made camp on Capitol Hill in 2011 including a lack of “effective hygiene facilities” and “food borne illness risk factors” that eventually forced the camp’s exit.
Meanwhile, neighborhood businesses including Vermillion, La Dive, and Optimism Brewing have been providing assistance as makeshift community aid stations with water and supplies for demonstrators.
The reopening of streets isn’t exactly a victory of progress — the streets were opened before, right? — but the decision comes in a line of changes to policing ceded by the Durkan administration including a temporary ban on tear gas and new guidelines for officer badge numbers. It follows a Sunday night conflagration described by many as the most aggressive show of crowd control firepower by SPD that came only hours after Durkan’s speech on deescalation.
Activists and community groups involved in the protests and rallies are continuing their call to “#defundSPD” by cutting the department’s budget by 50% and, at a Central District rally organized by Africatown and several community groups, calls for the major reduction in the Seattle Police budget were joined by renewed demands for community use of several neighborhood properties, funding for Black community organizations, and severing “all existing contracts, and all financial ties” between SPD and Seattle Public Schools.
Whatever is happening with the East Precinct building, it is an unsettled situation. Over the weekend CHS found scores of SPD patrol vehicles parked in a North Capitol Hill parking lot. We were told that East Precinct was on mobile status and CHS was asked not to publish the location. Monday, meanwhile, all East Precinct officers on patrol were recalled from the streets — still responding to calls but bunkered down without further announcement.
At the 12th and Pine headquarters, meanwhile, as E Pine and 12th Ave are cleared, the sidewalks around the precinct building are being lined with heavy barriers.
UPDATE: The Seattle Department of Neighborhood has sent an ominous sounding message to area businesses and organizations that warns of a “credible threat” to burn the precinct building down and notifying them that the building and nearby apartment buildings will be assessed for possible treatment with “a biodegradable foam fire suppressant” by the Seattle Fire Department as a preventative measure.
The City of Seattle would like to reach out to you about some changes that will be happening on Pine Street between 11th and 12th Avenue. The Seattle Police Department (SPD) will be removing existing crowd barriers in order to support a peaceful protest march. While the protest is expected to be peaceful SPD has credible information about a potential intent to set fire to the East Precinct at the intersection of 12th Avenue and Pine. We don’t believe that this will happen, but out of an abundance of caution, the Seattle Fire Department (SFD) is taking some preventative measures to protect the East Precinct building and the surrounding apartment buildings and businesses. They will be assessing the need to spray a biodegradable foam fire suppressant on the buildings tonight if needed, as well as reaching out to the community. As always, if there is a fire please call 9-1-1 and the SFD will respond. They have a station on Pine Street and 13th Avenue. City crews will also be in the neighborhood to support clean up and any next steps after the protest is completed.
Meanwhile, the old barricades have been replaced by a new line of bicycle cops as crowds of protesters have increased in the area while the streets are still being cleared and SPD prepares for the new situation at the precinct.
UPDATE 7:56 PM: A few hundred continue to protest outside the precinct which has been boarded up with the removal of police and National Guard troops from the area.
The East Precinct’s officers continue to respond to calls but are being dispatched from elsewhere in the city.
Volunteer Park, meanwhile, appears to have become home to a staging area for some policing activity and the National Guard. A similar scene was also reported at Bailey Gatzert Elementary School on E Yesler.
What a difference a block makes. Here’s the crowd of a few hundred (?) demonstrators at 12th and Pine in front of SPD’s East Precinct. Lots of people scattered down the side streets also. #seattleprotest pic.twitter.com/AKxF5zmVeY
— Jake Goldstein-Street (@GoldsteinStreet) June 9, 2020
— Jake Goldstein-Street (@GoldsteinStreet) June 9, 2020
Looks like the National Guard is staging in Volunteer Park. pic.twitter.com/7u2RarKICs
— Ryan Packer (@typewriteralley) June 9, 2020
UPDATE 10:40 PM: The Joint Information Center set up to provide updates as Seattle and King County battle the COVID-19 crisis is also serving as a clearinghouse of information during the protests. Here’s what a representative told CHS about why the East Precinct building was cleared of “personal effects” before it was boarded up:
This evening, the Seattle Police Department removed the barricades surrounding the East Precinct and re-opened the roads so protesters could march peacefully through Capitol Hill. The City installed temporary fencing around the immediate perimeter of the East Precinct building to proactively protect the building itself and the adjacent residential units in the event that any projectiles are thrown at the Precinct building, particularly projectiles that could cause a fire. The Seattle Police Department also removed many personal effects of the officers normally stationed in the East Precinct as part of the proactive effort to guard against potential damage or fire.
While some are reporting that the East Precinct has been “abandoned,” City Hall’s description of “the proactive effort to guard against potential damage or fire” somewhat counters the narrative.