Interim Seattle Police chief vows crackdown after months of ‘direct action’ protests targeting property damage and vandalism

2021 began with more protest arrests on Capitol Hill (Image: CHS)

Seattle’s interim police chief called a press conference Saturday to announce “a new policy of arresting and prosecuting people who vandalize or damage property during protests,” KIRO TV reports — but the Seattle Times says it is not clear what has changed after Chief Adrian Diaz’s weekend announcement:

Holmes wasn’t at the news conference and in a statement, his office said misdemeanor policies are the same. No documents to outline any enforcement changes were immediately available. “We only learned about it after the fact,” Dan Nolte, a city attorney’s spokesperson, said regarding the hastily called news conference.

The Times reports Diaz told reporters “he has wanted to crack down on property destruction for months, and that in his opinion, violent protesters and vandals aren’t promoting a cause.”

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Plywood comes down as Seattle Police begins process of removing East Precinct wall and barriers — UPDATE — Mayor’s office: Wall expected down ‘in coming weeks’

(Image: Alex Garland)

The reopening to the public of Capitol Hill’s East Precinct will apparently come piece by piece. This week, plywood is being removed from the Seattle Police Department’s precinct headquarters at 12th and Pine, the first time Seattle daylight has touched the glass since the summer days of CHOP and the Capitol Hill protest zone. The large cement wall and fencing barricading the facility and closing it off from the public remain.

A department spokesperson tells CHS the removal of the plywood “is part of a process underway” to fully reopen the precinct “when safe to do so.” Work is also underway to repair the glass and strengthen the windows.

There is no schedule for removing the wall. Continue reading

More arrests on Capitol Hill to start 2021 as anti-police protesters continue to target East Precinct

(Image: Renee Raketty)

(Image: Renee Raketty)

Seattle Police and anti-police protesters ended 2020 in familiar fashion on Capitol Hill with clashes and arrests near the 12th Ave youth jail and the East Precinct after reports of property damage and more broken glass at an area business targeted in previous attacks.

Friday morning, owner Faizel Khan was sweeping up glass from busted windows at his Cafe Argento on 12th Ave at E Olive St. Khan’s business was first targeted this summer and he was at the center of a New York Times report on the police defunding movement that took a critical look at the effort through the eyes of local businesses and property owners. The small business is also part of a handful joining a group of developers and property owners suing the city over its response to the protests.

SPD reports four arrests in the New Year’s Eve incidents as demonstrators gathered in the recently reopened Cal Anderson and marched to the King County Youth Service Center at 12th and Alder before returning to Capitol Hill and a tussle with police up and down E Pine. Continue reading

Amid Seattle’s big issues around policing, community meeting digs through the nitty gritty of 2020 crime in the East Precinct

Beneath the “defund” push to redirect Seattle Police spending to social and community programs and the political maneuverings around removing the wall outside the East Precinct and reopening Cal Anderson Park, the nitty gritty of neighborhood crime concerns was at the forefront Thursday night for the monthly meeting of the East Precinct Advisory Council.

Property crime is on the rise in the East Precinct, SPD leadership told community members Thursday evening, with car theft, arson, and burglary up compared to 2019.

SPD crime prevention coordinator Joe Elenbaas joined the East Precinct Advisory Council to outline ways to prevent mail and car theft. Recommendations included signing up for the United States Postal Service’s Informed Delivery program, which lets recipients know what mail they’ll be receiving so they can pick it up quickly, anti-theft devices in cars, and hiding electronics that might indicate there are expensive items in the vehicle.

Elenbaas said that they are hearing of increased package theft from East Precinct residents but that victims are apparently not bothering to report the crimes.

The community meeting highlighted several areas of concern from SPD including arson, vehicle thefts, and property crime at Seattle University and businesses. Continue reading

‘It’s urgent’ — Mayor says launching initiatives to open Cal Anderson, remove East Precinct wall amid encampments and ongoing protests — UPDATE

Video images from Matthew Brian posted by @spekulation

Mayor Jenny Durkan tells CHS that her office will “in coming weeks” launch two initiatives planned with local businesses and community representatives to “restore” Cal Anderson Park and take down the barricades around the East Precinct.

“It’s urgent,” the mayor said Tuesday. “It is our densest neighborhood with a very high ratio of people who are renters. There’s very little open space.” The mayor said business and property is also at the front of the discussion after months of demonstrations and ongoing police and protester clashes around the precinct, the park, and the Capitol Hill core.

Beyond reopening a park and clearing the sidewalk at 12th and Pine, the initiatives would be most important for their implications for the neighborhood’s homelessness crisis and the ongoing, nightly protest and unrest. Continue reading

Is the Capitol Hill protest season over?

With reporting by Renee Raketty

The marches, rallies, and actions have once again shifted and there have been more nights than not lately with quiet streets around Capitol Hill’s walled-off East Precinct. Some might think Seattle protest season has ended just as the drizzle season has arrived.

“The protest community is feeling the strain of almost 180 days of continuous action. Increasing COVID numbers, a change in Seattle police tactics, factionalization, and the logical progression of a protest into political activity have reduced daily turnout,” David Obelcz, a frequent protest live streamer and publisher of said. “It is worth noting the 150-day march and the November 4 march had more than 1,000 people. Anyone who is pouring one out for Black Lives Matter in Seattle is doing so prematurely.”

But the night of the 150-day march did seem to mark a turning point. In the weeks since, demonstrations have been spread out across the city including the International District, Northgate, and West Seattle, plus a tangle with some Proud Boys in Mill Creek, along with a couple nights of protest activity starting as it has for months in Cal Anderson. But groups on the Hill have been smaller and reports of vandalism at the East Precinct and business property damage have quieted since October. Even the E Olive Way Starbucks has reopened though the neighborhood’s parking meters remain busted.

For larger rallies and marches, the changes seem to be a focus on a wider area of the city and a push toward quality over quantity. There are fewer events but a more robust deployment of resources including the safety of the “Car Brigade” and sometimes a split of marchers into two or more groups to stretch Seattle Police resources and limit law enforcement interference.

SPD also has new tactics and new equipment — though its deployment in the East Precinct has also become a relative rarity.

The causes of the Black Lives Matter groups and the anti-police “direct action” activists don’t cleave to a legislative schedule but another season has also passed. Continue reading

Mayor Durkan, tear down this wall (and safely reopen Cal Anderson)

A petition organized by members of neighborhood community groups, organizations, and businesses around Cal Anderson have launched a petition to show community support for the reopening of the park and removal of the concrete barrier wall surrounding the East Precinct:

From the Pike Pine Urban Neighborhood Council:

Cal Anderson Park, a 7-acre public park in the middle of Seattle, has been closed to the public since early July. Although many continue to use the park, its use is not supported by regular maintenance and repair and it has become an unwelcoming place for many. Since its closure there have been 2 deaths inside the park, sprawling encampments, piles of trash and human excrement, property damage and deferred maintenance. Reopening the park will provide much needed maintenance and allow for the park to be utilized by all. The City has installed large cement barriers and fences around the E. Precinct in response to property damage. While most businesses have removed the plywood from their windows and are open for business in the neighborhood, the barricades around the E. Precinct remain. Removing the barricades signals this is a safe and welcoming neighborhood. We created the petition and will send its signatures to the Mayor and City Council members – the support they say they need to act. But, to make an impact, we need a LARGE VOICE. Please sign the petition here:

The petition already had more than 200 sign-ups as of early Thursday afternoon. Continue reading

Who ordered the abandonment of the East Precinct? — UPDATE

(Image: Matt Mitgang)

KING 5 is reporting new details of text messages and emails from city officials this summer as the CHOP occupied protest took shape on Capitol Hill including bizarre exchanges like this reported between Fire Chief Harold Scoggins and hip hop artist Raz Simone who had been part of the chaotic, exciting, and growing demonstrations and was asked to try to do something to help protect the abandoned East Precinct:

“Raz, I just got word that 4 people just broke the door at SPD and entered the building,” said a Scoggins text to Simone.

“A way to keep SPD out of the space is secure that building during the protest. Can you guys work with us on that?” Scoggins asked.

But despite former Chief Carmen Best’s new job with NBC, KING did not add much to the question at the center of how CHOP formed and grew on Capitol Hill in the first place — who ordered the abandonment of the East Precinct?

On Friday, May 29th, protests begin in Seattle after the police killing of George Floyd as thousands marched and demonstrated. Windows were smashed at Capitol Hill’s Amazon grocery and Ferrari dealership and seven arrests were reported. As the protests grew through the city, on Wednesday, June 3rd a “Defund Seattle Police” rally began in Cal Anderson after a battle of tear gas and blast balls as police moved on demonstrators and National Guard troops joined the lines with police outside the East Precinct. The next day, the city began bowing to protest demands, lifting its curfew as demonstrations continued. Cal Anderson continued to grow as a center of the ongoing protests and a battle line of sorts emerges at 11th and Pine. Clashes continued and on Saturday, June 6th Seattle City Council members joined the protest. Sunday, after the mayor’s speech on deescalation of the ongoing protest clashes between demonstrators and police, SPD responds with its strongest show of force yet in the “standoff” at 11th and Pine. That Sunday night, a man drives into the crowd at 11th and Pine and shoots a demonstrator. Nikolas Fernandez, the brother of an East Precinct cop, will be arrested and charged with one count of first degree assault. On Monday, June 8th, moving trucks arrived at the East Precinct as city officials said there were credible threats of arson targeting the building identified by the FBI. On Tuesday, June 9th, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone forms around an emptied East Precinct

The KING 5 report provides some color behind the chaos of the situation: Continue reading

Seattle Police Department brings ‘perfect storm’ concerns to East Precinct community crime meeting

Wednesday night’s virtual meeting of the East Precinct Advisory Council brought community members fatigued by ongoing pandemic restrictions and months of protest together with Seattle Police officials who described the situation around crime in the East Precinct as a “perfect storm.”

SPD brought statistics to back up its claims including what the department says is a near 13% rise in overall crime in the East Precinct. That’s in line with CHS’s report on summer crime trends that showed overall crime down but the core, most serious crimes up 12% in a surge that began in January well before the pandemic and protests set in.

Focusing on the most serious crimes that SPD uses for its statistical analysis like assaults, burglaries, and vehicle related crimes, CHS showed crime was down 4% through August in 2020. In June during the height of CHOP, crime — including everything from animal cruelty to street robberies — dropped a whopping 14% from recent years across the precinct.

There have been areas of frustration, however, as burglaries have surged around Pike/Pine and in the area between Broadway and I-5. Homicides and gun related crimes have also climbed. There have already been nine murders across the East Precinct — there were five in all of 2019 and three the year before.

And the month since CHS’s analysis has not been a good one. In September, the East Precinct recorded a 23% jump in overall crime compared to the same month last year.

The surging stats come on the heels of months of demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality often based at the East Precinct on Capitol Hill that have frequently resulted in arrests. One community member said they were frustrated demonstrators weren’t being punished more for “tearing this city up.”

SPD officials said Wednesday night that it is difficult to prosecute these cases with lower jail capacities due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the time it takes to complete paperwork on each case.

“I think everybody is tired of all the protests and all the violence and all the property destruction,”  Lt. Paul Leung said. “This is almost a perfect storm.” Continue reading

Arrests and charges against duo in bat and Molotov cocktail attacks on East Precinct — and a glimpse inside black bloc

Charges against two friends police say were responsible for Molotov cocktail attacks at the East Precinct, fires in the streets of Pike/Pine, and the bat attack on a riot officer during a September clash with police that made national headlines provide a glimpse into the ongoing black bloc demonstrations on Capitol Hill and across Seattle and reveal the simple clues that allowed detectives to track down the suspects.

Seattle Police and the King County Prosecutor announced the arrests in the most high profile recent protest incidents and charges against Jacob Greenburg, 19, and Danielle McMillan, 29, this week.

Greenburg, a Kirkland resident, is charged with first degree attempted arson, reckless burning, and first degree assault for the September bat attack on an officer after police moved in on a large crowd of protesters demonstrating against injustice in the Breonna Taylor case as a grand jury in Kentucky declined to file homicide charges in the March 2020 killing of the 26-year-old Black woman. Greenburg also faces a charge of being armed with a deadly weapon in the attack. Police say the teen has no known criminal history.

McMillan, who lists an Everett address, is charged with first degree arson and also has a limited criminal record. In 2018, she was busted for reckless driving, and was charged with obstruction in 2011. She also faced minor drug charges in 2009, the court records state.

Both are scheduled to enter pleas on the charges next week.

The prosecutor’s office says the case is one of around 20 it is handling from arrests made during months of protest across the city. “The overwhelming majority of protest-related arrests are never referred to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office,” the office said in a statement.

In the court documents, police describe the baseball bat attack that left the officer stunned but not seriously injured, and a series of Molotov cocktail attacks and arsons around the East Precinct that Greenburg and McMillan are alleged to have planned and taken part in. Following the attack on the officer, police asked for the public’s help tracking down the suspect and began searching for more information about the person seen striking the officer in video of the assault circulating online. Police say the duo also made incriminating statements to each other via text. “can we like pls slit every spd throat,” the 19-year-old is alleged to have texted. Continue reading