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With Seattle Police staying out of the Capitol Hill protest zone, the camp, neighbors, and businesses struggling to solve public safety issues

Why are you here?, painted on the street at the protest zoneSeattle’s third week of protest against police brutality and racial bias started with tens of thousands of marchers and a Capitol Hill protest zone celebrating its growing days of speeches and learning, donation and garden projects, volunteer squads including clean-up crews, medics, and security teams, and a Culture Day that filled the area with visits from Indigenous leaders from across the region.

There is a growing roster of met demands and political wins. Monday will bring a day of debate at the Seattle City Council over increased regulation and restriction of police over tactics including chokeholds and tear gas.


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But, for many here and, especially, for those far from the city’s core, the focus remains on worries about threats to public safety and policing that the growing rows of tents that the Capitol Hill camp represent in the blocks around 11th and Pine and Cal Anderson. Part of the concern is the future of the East Precinct building itself. Part is how the Seattle Police Department is making its decisions and who is in charge.

Late Sunday night brought the latest flashpoint for those making the case that the camp must be cleared. Around 10:15 PM, East Precinct dispatch broadcast that the owner of 12th Ave’s Car Tender was reporting his son was “armed to teeth and will start killing people” as he held down a person caught burglarizing the auto garage.

SPD officers responded they would “stage in the area” but were not going in.

The volatile situation that followed is being shared around the world Monday morning — a Daily Caller video intern happened to be at the auto garage property as the situation unfolded. A crowd of 30 to 50 people from the protest camp grew at the 12th Ave at E Olive St auto yard’s fence and knocked it down. Video shows someone at the garage holding a gun on the crowd. Reports say the alleged burglar was eventually searched by people including security volunteers from the camp but fled the scene before everything reported missing was returned.

Most viewers of the video clips won’t be interested in the self-policing — Seattle Police stayed clear during a tense and potentially dangerous standoff.

The 911 caller “sounds very frustrated by the whole situation,” the dispatcher recounts about 20 minutes into the episode. “3 Charlie, I copy,” one officer replies.

The episode is one of a growing roster of incidents being pointed to as evidence the camp is lawless and dangerous as SPD Chief Carmen Best says she is working on a plan to return police to their East Precinct headquarters. Best has said response times in the precinct stretching across Capitol Hill and the Central District have tripled from five to 18 minutes and that lower priority calls might take an hour.

Best’s talking points about crime across the precinct as a whole have also been seen by some as attacks on the camp. “There are people’s lives who are affected,” Best said in a story on the crime concerns reported by KOMO. “Emergency calls, which often means somebody’s being assaulted, sometimes it’s a rape, sometimes it’s a robbery, but something bad is happening if it’s a top priority call, and we’re not able to get there…”

Those words have become headlines at sites like the Daily Caller.

But the circumstances at the soon to be demolished 12th Ave auto garage Sunday night haven’t been explicitly acknowledged by Best or SPD brass. Best’s command has issued marching orders to East Precinct officers: Stay out of the protest zone.

The city’s emergency information center has declined to comment on SPD dispatching.

The situation around the East Precinct mixing a self-restricted SPD with a self-policed camp of occupiers and activists doesn’t have to end badly as the city’s long route to meeting protester and community group demands, making legislative changes, and changing the way the city spends on police plays out.

Friday in the middle of the night, a man walked up to the East Precinct, spread a flammable liquid along the building’s base, and set it on fire causing a wall of flame to erupt at 12th and Pine. The camp’s residents and volunteers rushed , organized, and put of the flames — and saved the building at the center of the camp and the debate. SPD is now searching for the suspect — and asking for the community’s help. UPDATE: SPD has announced an arrest in the arson case:

SPD Arson/Bomb Unit detectives and South Precinct Anti-Crime Team officers arrested a 34-year-old Pierce County man on June 18th for setting a fire outside the East Precinct. Police booked the man into the King County Jail for reckless burning and arson.

Camp organizers and volunteers are also shaping efforts to communicate and get feedback from neighbors in nearby apartment buildings and at local businesses. In an email shared with CHS, a group of businesses is making its needs heard through the mayor’s  Small Business Advisory Council with questions and requests but not demands for the camp’s removal. Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins has been a regular presence inside the camp where SFD has advised on adjusting traffic barriers placed to protect the protest the zone to that it is easier for emergency vehicles to get through if needed. Some issues are logistical — how can the city and the camp make sure mail and deliveries can get through? — others — like how the city and camp can make LGBTQ people in the neighbohrhood feel safe — will require a lot of work.

(Image: Gay City)

(Image: Gay City)

UPDATE 11:57 AM: An incident at E Pike’s Gay City shows how some neighborhood businesses and organizations are working with the protest organizers to help address issues like property crime. Over the weekend, the glass front doors of the LGBTQ nonprofit were shattered. “Thanks to some incredible neighbors and passers by, we were able to respond quickly to the broken glass and get things boarded up,” a Gay City update on the incident reads. “Thank you especially to the folks who mobilized from CHOP, and to the sentinel who helped clean up and kept watch over our center while we responded.”

Gay City executive director Fred Swanson explained the situation — and the decision not to involve police:

Let’s talk for a minute about community. This was the scene this Sunday morning at work- turns out an interaction between a person who has been known to sleep in our doorway was escalated to the point where his backpack busted out our glass door. I don’t know why. I don’t know what happened. We weren’t here. I suspect untreated mental health needs and unaddressed addiction played a role. I suspect not having a place to be housed played a role. Within minutes I got a call from a passer-by who said “I didn’t feel comfortable calling the police but I wanted to alert you.” Our landlord got a call from the cafe across the street. Someone else alerted the folks at CHOP/CHAZ that the entryway to our center was busted open. You know, the “anarchists” you’ve been reading about? They’re a few blocks away and sent support, including from a sentinel to watch our space while our landlord called for a company to put up plywood. We cleaned up the glass together and the sentinel from CHOP stayed until the plywood arrived.

This is community, folks. This is how we look out for one another. It’s also why we need to invest in human services. Because locking the guy up who did this- if he’s identified and caught- won’t solve the human needs that precipitated his breaking the glass or the interaction that escalated him. And while the door can be quickly repaired, the supports he and so many others of us need will take a shifting of resources and humanity on a major scale.”

“This is how we look out for one another,” Swanson writes.


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43 thoughts on “With Seattle Police staying out of the Capitol Hill protest zone, the camp, neighbors, and businesses struggling to solve public safety issues

  1. Free food, water, tents and no cops ? What do we expect to happen after a few days.

    Why not protest the Trader Joe’s up the hill to reopen instead of attack a car repair business….

    • Why? Is it a Black-owned business?

      One drunk guy attacked the business. It escalated from there but…no one was hurt, there were no chokeholds, and despite many humans, a broken fence, and both sides having firearms, no one got shot. Even though at least 20 of those protestors were Black.

      • Wrong. The owner responded to an alert his business, it was on fire and CHAZ-ians were inside. He and his son attempted to repsond and defend their private business and were held down by that rapper idiot and his gang who were all armed. The cops refused to respond. This is what you are allowing over tax paying, law abiding citizens. Shame on you all.

  2. CHS if you start parroting police talking points you will have lost all my respect. Please make clarifications in this article and do your due diligence to find out exactly what happened that night. As written this article is very unclear on if the protestors stopped the attempted burglary or were involved in it. If they stopped it, that counts as a plus in my book because how often do police actually stop robberies in progress. You cannot paste in quotes from a biased source and not clearly frame them as such.

    • Hmmm. When does reporting what happened turn into “Parroting police talking points?” They are showing a video of the event and reporting what happened. You may have had a different experience. Maybe you weren’t even there. I’ve had my car fixed by these people many times. They are nice people trying to protect their property. What would you have them do differently? They had a rifle. Hmmm. Well, so do some of the people attracted by the protest. All the love and hope of changing the way our police interact with us is a great idea. But the realities of people doing bad things to each other and to good small local businesses will continue.

      • All of it is more chaotic but with a better outcome than any police anything I’ve seen.

        Attacker gets away but even for both sides having firearms, no one gets shot. In fact, there is no shooting at all. Protestors came on-site (many of them Black) thinking a Black man was in danger (understandable). Other protestors calmed them down. No one was injured. One sober protestor explains and apologizes to the owner, they talk about community, protestor gives owner his contact info. More chaos.

        (also turns out…this shop is NOT within the cops “no patrol/no go” zone. SFD confirms this the next day.)

  3. I think everybody that owns a business around her was initially supportive of CHAZ but stuff like this isn’t acceptable. The small businesses of Cap Hill are not the enemy.

    Frankly I’m a bit worried that the Mayor has no plan here.

    BLM is an important moment — finally justice is coming around — but starting fires and stealing from the businesses around is not going to do anything except turn the tide of public support and anger locals.

    • Anyone who thinks the CHAZ is accruing to anything for racial justice is delusional. At best, it’s a sideshow distracting from driving realistic solutions. At worst, it’s providing fodder for national right wing news to scare people into opposing reform.

      I can’t imagine what local business owners are going through. But I don’t blame most of them for either voicing support or staying quiet; it’s probably the best way to protect their property at this point since the SPD won’t respond. I just hope no one gets seriously hurt.

    • The mayor? Lol – how about our duly elected socialist who doesn’t show up to anything here unless there is a camera around! At least the mayor was up here trying to find some leadership to negotiate with while City Council is busy trying to tear down our first woman/black police chief. Most people living and working in the neighborhood want police REFORM and a more just/equitable world but we also want our neighborhood back!

      • Don,t forget Carmen Best was not the Mayor’s choice for police chief. Best was eliminated from consideration as the final three candidates were chosen, but Council and advocate outrage forced the Mayor to reconsider and give the job to Best. Now the Council wants to hang Best out to dry and blame Durkan for hiring her. Sad.

      • That’s a great point, Glenn. One that people seem to have forgotten.

        The Council is rather good at deflecting blame for anything negative in the city, whether it be to the mayor or Amazon, or whatever else the boogeyman of the month is. Far be it for any of them to step up and take real accountability for what goes on around here.

      • Reform has been tried for the last 50 years; Minneapolis and Seattle were supposedly 2 of the most progressive police departments and we’ve had some of the most reform. It’s ridiculous.

        And if you haven’t been to a recent Council meeting, I wouldn’t be so clear on their opinions. Durkan will go. And as callers were clear to them on, if they don’t do it, we will.

  4. I’m MORE concerned about what will happen when the city does show up and tell everyone to go home. Will this incite more violence? It seems many of the folks hanging out (and camping illegally in the park) don’t want order – certainly nothing enforced by the police. I only live a few blocks away and I’m afraid to go out my door. NO ONE should fear their home in this way.

    • The vandalism must stop. Central Lutheran Church (1710 11th ave.) had their front door vandalized…Central is inclusive and “open and affirming.” Which means it doesn’t discrminate based on race, religion, social status, gender, gender-identity, or sexual orientation. Central began the Community Lunch feeding program for the homeless decades ago. It was the first church in the Evangelical Lutheran Synod to conduct same-sex weddings. It was the first Lutheran church to have a black pastor on staff. Finally, it’s members have been marching with and supporting other protesters from the start.
      Vandalism on Capitol Hill is senseless and, misguided. The leadership in this protest should specifically demand their protesters to stop the vandalism. There is no good reasoning or justification to damage small businesses or organizations…they are not the “bad-guys.”

      • Unless it night time and Raz is Warlording it up with his assault rifle and the good ol boys from the car repair place are chasing someone down in the other direction…

      • I can understand their being afraid. I myself haven’t walked by Cal Anderson after sunset for years. So yeah, a bunch of strangers hanging out around my front door 24/7? I’m definitely going to wary.

  5. So Fred Swanson decided that the broken glass is no big deal since it can be repaired. What are the chances that his organization or the swell “protesters” that ran off the police will pay for the repair? Not much chance at all I’d guess. The landlord will have to incur that expense. Maybe we should ask him if it’s no big deal.

  6. I personally am avoiding all the businesses on Pike/Pine. It seems the great majority support the CHOP. I don’t support it. (However I do support Police reforms; there does appear to be a need for changes in tactics and the hiring of more officers from diverse backgrounds).

    But the CHOP itself is foolish. It is tactically brilliant, but strategically stupid. In the near term it may lead to some reforms, but in the long-term it will turn your average citizen against BLM, more meaningful reforms, and Progressivism is general.

    • exactly, thank you from someone living inside PIKE PINE… Sawant – you listening? Do your damn job and clean up our neighborhood please

    • Trust me every business here is sympathetic to BLM and was horrified by the violence the police did. Every business around suffered during corona, suffered during that brutality, and is now suffering under CHAZ.

      Please, support your local businesses. We aren’t going to say “go home” on our doors lest we end up with a brick through a window, ya know?

      • Support for BLM is strong here in pike-pine. What is going on now has very little or nothing to do with BLM. close the street down for a few days a month, great and have some fun raising/awareness activities – great! The nightly criminal activities are a direct result of the city Council, socialist sawant and hipster bloggers demanding the police abandon their posts. It isnt working and the majority of us want our neighborhood back…Or one by one the residents and businesses will pack up and leave so that all that are left are people that need more handouts and clean up services – paid for by you and me.

  7. Whats up with the spray paint all over? Is anyone else troubled with this at all. It’s the worst I’ve ever seen in the past 10 days. All over the hill. The small business person used to be able to keep up, now it’s just over run your local business.
    Prior to CHAZ it was respectful and on plywood only. Now it clearly done by outsiders that don’t give a rip about local business.

  8. A video intern from one of these right-wing (founded by Tucker Carlson!) hysteria outlets JUST HAPPENED to be on site when some nebulous incident stirred up filmable drama? That’s interesting!

      • Maybe he hired Raz and the gang of thugs to come alooting, and the car tender guys to get some guns so he could film it ? How in gods name would you set this up – he probably followed Warlord Raz round the corner hoping to see some Action.

    • You sound like Trump. Blame the messenger when the message is unflattering. Fake news!

      It’s all on video without any apparent edits to make it look worse. So, unless you think this was all some sort of anti-CHAZ conspiracy involving dozens of people to make a video, I’d take it at face value.

      • Oh, in my hypothetical scenario you would only need the video intern, the conveniently unidentified “thief”, and the gun-toting son to be in on it. They couldn’t predict (and didn’t necessarily require for their purposes) a specific reaction from the crowd, but they could hope for SOMETHING filmable to happen once word got around that a man was being held at gunpoint. Certainly possible for the father and someone(s) in the crowd (to eventually help the “thief” get away or just stir up confusion) to be in on it as well, but not absolutely necessary. It’s just the next logical step from how all these right-wingers “heard a rumor” that busloads of Antifa were on their way to Snohomish, Forks, the Tricities, etc.

      • Did you see the part where they kicked the fence down ? What kind of budget does the intern have for this thing ?

      • @noeee
        Did you hear how fast they were running and what one of them was yelling? They were told that their friend was still being held. A Black guy.

        So you know, that wouldn’t make anyone think, “oh, he’ll be fine; we should just amble on over…” ;)

  9. Thanks for reporting the good AND the bad. I think of a lot of us in the neighborhood have a bad feeling about this is all going to end. What if that fire had shot up to the second floor and they couldn’t put it out with their extinguishers? Could fire trucks have gotten in with all of the barricades around? What would happen to people who live in surrounding apartment buildings?

  10. The real question here is who gives up first.

    How long until the protestors give up and leave, versus how long before the city gives up and send the cops back?

    • The question is supposed to be,
      “How long until the protestors give up and leave, versus how long before the Durkan gives up and concedes to the demands of Black Lives Matters?”

      You don’t see them on Capitol Hill because they keep pushing on Durkan every single day.

  11. If this happened a few weeks ago it would’ve been, call the cops to get the report that insurance requires to pay for the damage. Also arrest the un-housed guy with mental issues because that’s what we do.

    I was so annoyed—at first—reading this and thinking hello? Stolkholm syndrome? You’re thanking the people who broke your door?!

    I appreciate Mr. Swanson’s report. It reframed this scene for me in a way that I didn’t consider.

    We’re too conditioned to call the cops when we see anything amiss. It doesn’t work. It’s not what they signed up for, and it’s not how community works together.

    Defund, and unburden, the police.
    Re-fund, and empower, the community.

    • With no cops I doubt the insurance will be paying.

      So this week it’s shut down business because you can’t afford to pay for repairs. Talk to the Car Tender owners about cost of rekeying all the cars in their lot at say $500 each. So community could drop by $10k to cover that and fence repairs ?

      • Is that what we need to do this time? So that Durkan will stop stalling because maybe she thinks if she waits, something worse will happen and she can find someone else to blame while she sits in her very nice home?

        That is not that much money for this town. And John McDermott is a nice guy who actually cares about the cause. So why not?

  12. The Car Tender thief, and his CHAZ supporters, have effectively destroyed this small business, because it will not have any new customers for quite some time. I think the owner should sue the City for lack of police/fire services, and I hope he will get a huge settlement.

    • I’ve never wanted to own a gun, but watching that video has changed my mind. If the police are going to ignore you, then what choice do you have. The owner would have been over run otherwise.

      Someone should ask him how he kept it together and didn’t start shooting,..

      • The police are “ignoring” them because people in the area don’t want the police there. It was made very clear in the beginning that the police were only going to come in for life-threatening reasons.. a robbery doesn’t fit in there. And by the time there was a gun and such, it had already played out so the police wouldn’t have been there in time anyway. The CHOP folk said they can take care of themselves, but now the city is paying the make it nice for them.. doesn’t sound like anyone is going to “win” until something really bad happens and those folks can’t handle it themselves. They’ve already had to call the FD. They’re going to need other assistance here soon, too. But the city will probably give in again.

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