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Moving trucks at the East Precinct as SPD announces it will reopen Capitol Hill streets — UPDATE

UPDATE: The East Precinct is boarded up as protesters remain at the scene but SPD has left the area (Image: Jake Goldstein-Street)

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.

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.

“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.

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.

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26 thoughts on “Moving trucks at the East Precinct as SPD announces it will reopen Capitol Hill streets — UPDATE

  1. Probably the smart move to end the standoff situation. Hopefully it doesn’t end up burnt to the ground, although I’m sure there’s plenty of folks who would celebrate that.

    • Why not focus on the most likely larger group of people who see no benefit in burning down a building…it’s the system that allows police to murder people of color in broad daylight that we’re after. Burning down a building doesn’t do anything but provide arguments to the people who don’t want that system to change.

  2. This could have been since DAY 1 but NO! They wanted to fucking play with peoples fucking lives for over a fucking week!!! That’s what these pigs fucking do act like its a god damn game like we want to pay them millions of dollars to endanger peoples lives! DEFUND and DIVEST in policing and put OUR resources back INTO THE COMMUNITY not some dystopian horror show! SHAME ON THE POLICE SHAME SHAME SHAME!

  3. I think the BLM protesters need a marketing professional.
    I couldn’t thing of a worse phrase than “Defund the Police”. if I tried. (“Abolish ICE” comes in a close 2nd)

    All day long i read and hear “oh, what we really mean is…..”

    There is an old adage in politics that holds true to this day:

    If you are explaining, you are LOSING.

    Losers! lol

    • Yeah, look at how the educational outreach failed miserably when people put forward the ludicrous suggestion that the minimum wage be raised 50% to $15 an hour! 😂


      • $15 an hr .
        Simple message – simple slogan, people get it. Nothing to explain.

        Defund Police?
        Horrible message / slogan. If it is what is, just say it and stick by it, but then you get everyone trying to explain the nuance of what it “really means” – Seems the gist of it is mostly more social programs and social workers

        So when you are getting robbed, beaten by your boyfriend, raped, chased,stalked, stabbed, murdered or whatever, you want a social worker to show up? To what? Hold your hand? Talk to your attacker? That should teach them a lesson!

        Peaceful protesting is fine, but when it turns to violence and rioting you have lost most of us. Im deaf to your complaints at that point

        Stop yelling and VOTE.


    • Camden, NJ defunded 7 years ago and murders dropped in half. If you did your own research, you wouldn’t need to be explained things that already exist. It’s when you suckle on medias propaganda teat that you miss the truth.

      • Currently, police are overburdened handling animal control tasks, mental health tasks, etc.

        Police in Camden, NJ (defunded 7 years ago) handle crimes as you mentioned.

        Nobody needs a cop to get the squirrels out or to make sure the guy speaking loudly to god and threatening pigeons doesn’t walk in the street again.

      • Camden NJ didn’t defund their police – they simply started over.

        They switched from a city force to a county force (though only the city of Camden actually uses the force at this point in time.) A little fewer than 3/4 of the old force reapplied to the newly formed one, so it wasn’t exactly a completely fresh start either. They have almost twice as many officers as they did when the restructuring occurred. They have saved money but, budgetary savings came mainly from cutting officer benefits, as the new force is not unionized.

        Camden County Police force serves around 77,000 residents over 11 square miles with 401 officers. With a budget of 68.45 million.

        Seattle Police Force serves around 700,000 residents over 142 square miles with 1,300 officers. 407 million.

        So…. in Camden they have 36 officers for every square mile, 1 officer for every 192 residents and spends $889 per resident on policing each year.

        In Seattle we have 9 officers for every square mile, 1 officer for every 538 residents and spends $580 per resident on policing each year.

        I think the numbers show Camden is still ‘beating’ us for police presence and amount of money spent.

        Have they made some good reforms – undoubtedly – but have they ‘defunded their police’ – seems not.

  4. Jenny Durkan AND the entire City Council need to resign. They are co-equal branches of city government and what one is responsible for the other is by default responsible. The Mayor can’t hire a police chief without the council. The Mayor can’t buy chemical weapons without approval of the council. All 10 of these people are co-equally responsible for the crimes of the SPD.

    • Durkan did note even want to hire Best as police chief, but was forced to do so by The Council and other advocates. Has everyone forgotten how Best was set aside after the candidate search narrowed it to the final three (not her) and ensuing pressure forced Durkan to reinsert her and give her the job? So, yeah, the Council bears some responsibility for these problems.

  5. Good luck with all that.

    Jenny was voted in by a MAJORITY of the people who actually vote. Looks like most of these “protesters” are in their 20s … the least likely segment of the population to vote, around 45% compared to 70% of 65+, especially in local elections.

    If you don’t like her, maybe spend your time getting out the youth vote and vote for someone else next time around.

    We (most of the voting population of Seattle) still stand by Jenny

    She wont be run out of office by a vocal hysterical MINORITY

  6. I got online to donate money to BLM and to local seattle protestors but after seeing this article about the fire threat I will no longer be supporting. Its just too much hate and destructive energy. It’s not peaceful or productive. Treatening harm to the neighborhood is incredibly narrow minded and doesn’t show love for our neighbors, pets and small businesses.

  7. All those applauding police will, I hope, die in the fires they stoked. All those in Seattle who think removing the police is a win will be lined up against the communists’ walls and shot. And good riddance.

  8. Defunding the police is too vague. Ask three protesters and you’ll get three different responses. Some form of leadership needs to arise from the protesters to sit down with Chief Best, the Police Union rep. In a place that doesn’t have hundreds of protesters in the background. The current role of the police department needs to be reviewed and non-policing matters need to be taken away from the police department and sent to the City Council for a solution. Mental health, social services, homelessness… they are issues that could be dealt with elsewhere thus freeing up members of our police department to get out of their cars and meet their neighbors.
    While we’re at it…let’s apply the same practice to the public schools. Teachers and administrators are constantly being expected to operate under unfunded man rates to provide services not even remotely related to educating students.
    The appropriate, and very important services, must be provided for and supported by experts…not just dumped onto organizations that are already stretched thin…
    People should really be protesting the City Council at this point.

  9. Hi, Are you aware that SPD/National Guard, without notification or permission, used Seattle Schools properties? Apparently, it was Lowell Elementary and Bailey Gatzert Elementary. SPS was NOT happy. It is unclear to me if it was just parking stuff in the lots or going inside.

    Carmen Best apologized but it’s unclear if the situation is settled.

    • Who they going to ask? Why would they need permission to use city school parking lot?

      They city runs / owns both the police dept and the schools … City can use it if they want

      It would be like asking for permission to use the sidewalk.

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