After only a couple hours of forklift work and a day or two more for the fencing, a barrier wall went up in August around the East Precinct headquarters.
It is taking much, much longer to take it down.
Three months after Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office said Seattle Police was beginning the process of removing the 12th and Pine barrier that has cut the building off from the neighborhood since late summer, the department announced this week it is… beginning the process.
“The Seattle Police Department has been actively engaging with Capitol Hill residents, business owners and community leaders and hears their concerns about the barriers at the East Precinct,” a statement released by SPD reads. “As a result of those discussions, work has begun. Broken windows are being replaced and will be covered temporarily with plywood. The concrete barrier will also be removed and replaced temporarily with a fence.”
SPD is “taking these steps,” it says, “to reduce obstacles between officers and the people we serve.”
Those steps to remove the bolted cement blocks and fencing have been taken with an abundance of caution.
In January, CHS reported on work that began involving removing plywood and repairing precinct windows police said had been broken during ongoing protests targeting the facility. But by early March as the barrier wall around downtown’s West Precinct came down, the East Precinct was still surrounded, looking like an apocalyptic urban fortress.
At the time, precinct commander Capt. Eric Sano said there was no timetable for taking down the wall around the precinct building, telling an East Precinct community meeting that Chief Adrian Diaz’s staff was figuring out the process for fixing windows, eliminating the protective wooden boards, and removing the concrete blocks that have become a frequent flashpoint in conflicts with SPD and activists over graffiti and tagging of anti-police messages on the wall.
“I want to get that precinct open because it’s not right, it’s not a good way for our officers to work or for the community,” Sano said.
CHS reported here in August as the Seattle Department of Transportation installed concrete “eco-blocks” and a wire fence along Pine and 12th Ave, blocking sidewalks and crosswalks and obstructing bike lanes.
The Seattle Police Department said the barrier was necessary amid ongoing protest and arson threats after reclaiming the building following the CHOP sweep.
It’s not clear how significant those threats were — and remain. In the most high profile arson attack on the building, a 19-year-old was hit with federal charges for a fire started outside the building in August. That week, the barrier went up around the precinct. Later incidents were closer to this October attack in which a handful of protesters were arrested after dumping trash over the barrier wall. Others have been taken into custody for what SPD has said was graffiti with paint and chalk on the wall.
While protests have continued in the neighborhood, anti-police activities have waned from the late summer’s heights. Meanwhile, new flashpoints are nearing as the Derek Chauvin murder trial in the police killing of George Floyd plays out in Minnesota and Seattle readies for another May Day.
A Seattle Police spokesperson said she could not provide more specific information on the timing for the first phases of the planned work involving the windows, plywood, and replacing the cement wall with a temporary fence.
She said the department would be watching for “negative reaction” to the new temporary fence in determining how to proceed.
The department says the full removal timeline including taking down the planned temporary fence will depend on “whether the building again becomes a target for arson and property damage.”
“It is the Department’s hope to fully re-open the East Precinct to our neighbors as soon as possible,” the statement concludes.
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