Groups smashed and burned their way across Capitol Hill in a night of protest late on a Wednesday two weeks ago. It wasn’t a new scene — Capitol Hill has seen “direct action” protests before. But as larger marches and rallies have stepped off on an expanded effort to reach more communities and different parts of the city, groups seeking to make a more forceful statement or simply looking to do more damage have increasingly marched alone across Capitol Hill and the Central District.
That night in late July, the damage to buildings and businesses by some in the groups may have looked like random vandalism and graffiti. But it was targeted. And the owner of one of those targets says the message from her shop’s goods being dragged into the street and set on fire has been delivered loud and clear. It is time for Rove to leave the neighborhood.
“It went viral which I was kind of expecting,” Rachel McNew said of the weeks she spent waiting for the threats to come to fruition as the story spread of a store on the edge of the CHOP protest zone owned by a cop’s wife.
“It got real real ugly, real real quick.”
McNew is married to a Seattle Police officer. Her fashion and vintage shop Rove opened on 11th Ave in early 2017. Her husband Steven McNew was one of the two officers who shot and killed Charleena Lyles later that year.
Three years later, as CHOP grew nearby, McNew says the threats increased as people began to post about Rove and its connection to the Lyles killing. The store had been boarded up for weeks due to the COVID-19 restrictions but not emptied. With CHOP’s presence, she was worried any attempt to move her goods out could set off a dangerous situation in the protest zone.
Similar concerns were a factor for CHS’s decision not to publish details about Rove during the protest camp. Earlier in July, the owner of a neighborhood business said they were contacting CHS and other Seattle media outlets to call for Rove’s closure. The store’s location in a 1913-era building below three floors of condos added to the worries and the decision not to add to a potentially dangerous situation. No Seattle media reported on Rove during CHOP.
It didn’t matter. In black spray paint, someone tagged the Rove storefront — “KILLER COP.” The story was out. People knew about Rove.
McNew said she tried deleting her social media but said the threats against the store became death threats against her and her husband. McNew said she supports Black Lives Matter causes but would not have been comfortable publicly addressing Lyles, the threats, and the store’s place in the Capitol Hill community.
“There was just nothing I can say at this point,” McNew said of the time.
The messages, McNew said, called her racist because of who she is married to. “People say I should have divorced him,” McNew said.
But, after weeks of waiting it out, the situation around the store changed quickly the night of July 22nd as a group marched around the East Precinct, and up and down the Hill.
One of the main targets on the night was the still under construction Uncle Ike’s expansion on E Olive Way which suffered fire damage. The store opened for business this week.
Rove was another. As the demonstrators marched near the East Precinct later in the night, protesters ripped down plywood and busted into the vintage store where they gathered clothing and items from inside before setting the goods on fire in the street at 11th and Pike.
Photographs from the night show a bonfire-like blaze. Seattle Fire was called but did not respond after personnel from private security firm Iconic Global took care of stamping the fire out.
There was no reported fire damage to the building and its residents were not at risk but Rove suffered serious losses. McNew said she was at home and alerted by her security system of the break-in and fire but did not come to the scene.
There wasn’t anything to do, McNew said. It was time to close Rove and time for her to stop doing business in the neighborhood.
“Once they started burning stuff,” McNew said, “it just reinforced that Capitol Hill is not a safe area to conduct business.”
Regular demonstrations continue on Capitol Hill organized by “direct action” protesters separate from the Every Day March groups and other larger efforts organized by groups like King County Equity Now and Decriminalize Seattle. On a night earlier this week, the direct action marchers again circled the East Precinct for a few hours, turning over garbage cans, and dragging objects into the street before being corralled and pushed away from the area by police in riot gear carrying batons.
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