Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s Crackdown on CHOP Is Politically Motivated

Summary: Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best and Mayor Jenny Durkan say the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) will be dismantled and SPD will reoccupy the east precinct station, but protesters say they will continue to organize and rally in the autonomous zone. Demonstrators have called for Durkan’s and Best’s resignations for allowing police to attack protesters with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and flashbang grenades.

At a press briefing on June 22 Police Chief Carmen Best announced that Seattle Police Department officers don’t want to use batons or guns on protesters, but she claimed the city council had “legislated away” their option of using tear gas, rubber bullets, flashbang grenades, and other crowd control weapons. She asked for the reinstatement of those devices in an attempt to remilitarize the Seattle police department.

Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that SPD will reoccupy the abandoned east precinct where protesters have held a protest vigil against police brutality and racism for several weeks.

Best and Durkan had previously promised not to use tear gas on demonstrators but they broke that promise on June 8. On June 15 the Seattle city council voted unanimously to ban the procurement and use of tear gas and crowd control weapons.

Tensions are high at Capitol Hill Occupied Protest where folks now expect to be confronted by police attempting to clear the area.

Meanwhile, as the world watches in wonder and is inspired by Seattle’s innovative protest movement, Fox News, KOMO, and Donald Trump want to convince everyone that the autonomous zone is occupied by terrorists. Now Police Chief Best and Mayor Durkan have signaled that they are getting ready to take Trump’s advice to eliminate CHOP.

The situation has not eased in Seattle after several people have been shot during late night incidents, including two fatalities on Capitol Hill. 
My personal experience is that during the day CHOP has been a very safe place to be, where families with children and local residents visit to show solidarity with the protesters. It wasn’t so safe before SPD abandoned the east precinct. In fact, I was attacked with tear gas and flashbang grenades twice while standing in Cal Anderson Park trying to cover the protests as a reporter.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and SPD Chief Carmen Best are starting to use Trump’s “Law and Order” stance to shut down the anti police brutality/anti-racism protest. None of the protesters’ demands have yet been met, including the demand for Durkan’s resignation. This crackdown will look like a political move no matter how the mayor and chief try to spin it.

It was chilling to hear Chief Best complain that since the city council has banned the use of tear gas and rubber bullets, the only “tools” police have to deal with protesters are batons and guns!

That was interpreted by some civil rights activists as a veiled threat. Will SPD try to blame the city council if violence erupts when they try to take back the east precinct from protesters?

After 15,000 + complaints lodged against the SPD, the mayor and chief are still unrepentant and seem to be ready again for major clashes with Black Lives Matter protesters.

I am amazed they don’t seem to realize that some protesters may resist entry by police into the CHOP area and could try to block SPD’s reoccupation of the east precinct. The protesters have claimed the building as a community center.

Several community centers have been established in Seattle by protesters who held lengthy occupations. The Central Area Motivation Program was an old fire station. El Centro De La Raza was an abandoned public school. The Daystar Indian Cultural Center was a military base. The Cascade Community Center was originally an abandoned Seattle Times structure. The building where the Northwest African American Museum is now located was occupied by local black activists. This type of organized grassroots community action is a tradition in Seattle.

My impression, however, is that Mayor Durkan will support SPD and Chief Best despite widespread criticism of the police department’s actions because Durkan has the support of the business community. The Seattle Chamber of Commerce is among her most powerful constituents.

Carmen Best says she stands by her police officers completely, which is a bit unnerving considering their past history of misconduct. SPD has been working under a consent decree resulting from a review by the US Department of Justice. An investiagtion was launched after numerous allegations of the use of excessive force and racial profiling.

If there is a shakeup at city hall and Carmen Best is forced to resign as a result of more heavy handed police tactics, Durkan will also suffer politically.

Don’t be fooled by the statements from Best or Durkan. This coming crackdown on the protests is absolutely political! Public safety is the excuse that’s always given in these cases when the common people have temporarily gained the upper hand, and public officials will blatantly lie for political purposes in an attempt to save their own careers. Both political figures are fighting desperately to hold on to their dwindling power base.

When I proclaim that the crackdown on CHOP is political, please remember this one pertinent fact: One of the protesters’ demands has been the immediate resignation of Mayor Jenny Durkan for her failure to reign in the Seattle Police Department.

So, how would an authoritarian neoliberal politician react to this kind of extreme criticism and public pressure?

They would send in the police to force protesters out of Cal Anderson Park and the CHOP zone, of course! We saw this same kind of reaction by Mayor Mike McGinn and city officials against the Occupy Seattle encampments.

I certainly do not want to disregard the deaths of two young black men or the wounding of others. The tragedies at CHOP have been truly heart wrenching, but we must also remember that suppression of dissent is a time-honored tradition among unscrupulous political leaders.

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