The Seattle city government’s embrace of the protesters who created an “autonomous zone” in the heart of the city currently known as the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest may prove costly now that businesses and residents are taking the city to court for its lack of effort in protecting them.
Seattle Democratic Mayor Jenny Durkan had gushed over the protesters on Twitter, explaining that they were living out “patriotism” and saying that the area they had taken over was “not a lawless wasteland of anarchist insurrection — it is a peaceful expression of our community’s collective grief and their desire to build a better world.”
After multiple shootings, the charm began to wear thin on Durkan, and she has since said it is time for the occupied area to return to normal, though without offering any specific timeline of how that will happen.
Durkan’s apparent change of heart comes as a collection of businesses and individuals has filed a class action lawsuit against the city for its lack of action to clear out the occupied zone, which has been in place since June 8.
The lawsuit — filed Wednesday in federal court by numerous businesses, property owners and residents affected by the CHOP, according to The Associated Press — goes out of its way to note it supports many of the political and social goals of the protesters, before saying it is about time the rights and needs of other people entered into the equation.
“This lawsuit is about the constitutional and other legal rights of Plaintiffs — businesses, employees, and residents in and around CHOP — which have been overrun by the City of Seattle’s unprecedented decision to abandon and close off an entire city neighborhood, leaving it unchecked by the police, unserved by fire and emergency health services, and inaccessible to the public at large,” the suit reads.
“The City’s decision has subjected businesses, employees, and residents of that neighborhood to extensive property damage, public safety dangers, and an inability to use and access their properties.”
The suit notes that “[r]ather than seeking to restore order and protect the residents and property owners within CHOP, the City instead chose to actively endorse, enable, and participate in the occupation of CHOP.”
The results have been disastrous, according to the suit.
“Supported by the City, countless CHOP participants now reside in the park at all times of day and night, having turned it into a tent city. At any given time, hundreds of CHOP participants are camped out in the park. Violence, vandalism, excessive noise, public drug use, and other crimes are rampant within the park,” it says.
The suit says the city was complicit in keeping customers from businesses and residents from their homes.
“The City’s conduct has resulted in CHOP being blocked off from public access. Among other conduct detailed below, the City recently provided the participants with concrete barriers to use to block the streets, which CHOP participants have indeed used to barricade the streets and create borders,” the suit reads.
“These borders have, at times, been guarded by armed CHOP participants who oversee who can or cannot enter CHOP. As a result, the streets are barred to most all vehicular traffic, making it virtually impossible for residents and businesses to access their buildings, receive deliveries, and provide goods and services to the few customers willing to enter CHOP.”
The lawsuit says Seattle has abandoned those who live in CHOP to the rule of the mob.
“The City’s conduct has also resulted in the elimination of basic public safety within CHOP and nearby areas. For example, the City has enacted a policy under which police will not enter the CHOP area except during life-and-death emergencies, and, even in those situations, the response is, at best, muted and late,” it says.
“After a fatal shooting in the early morning of June 20, 2020, for example, officers did not even approach the area of the shooting until approximately 20 minutes after the shooting, and no professional medical response was available for at least 15 minutes. At other times, even during life-and-death emergencies, the police have acquiesced to demands from CHOP participants that they abandon the area.
“The City has acknowledged the serious safety issues it has created, in particular noting that there are ‘dangerous conditions’ at night, but the City has nonetheless chosen to maintain its policy of providing resources and support to the CHOP occupiers.”
Vandalism runs rampant around CHOP, according to the suit.
“The City’s conduct has enabled the widespread destruction and vandalism of private property. Graffiti is pervasive throughout CHOP — it is not only on barriers, streets, sidewalks, but also on nearly every private building within CHOP. Graffiti that is painted over almost immediately returns, and property owners have been told by CHOP participants that if they dare to paint over graffiti, their buildings will be more severely vandalized or even burned to the ground,” the lawsuit says.
Durkan “has provided the CHOP participants with not just tangible resources but also a de facto stamp of approval. Her tweets, interviews, and other statements have made it clear that the City is fully aware of what is happening, has no plan or timeline for remedying the ongoing harm, and in fact views the occupation of Capitol Hill as something akin to a perpetual block party,” it adds.
The suit offers several anecdotes, including one from June 14 involving a business called Car Tender.
“On June 14th at around 9:30 p.m., a person broke into Car Tender’s building, armed himself with a knife and a spike that he found inside the building, and lit a fire in the shop. After receiving a call from a neighbor alerting them to the break-in, Car Tender’s owner and son called 9-1-1 and then went to the premises themselves, where they found the shop’s garage had been broken into,” it says.
“They found that the property had also been vandalized with Purell hand sanitizer, which the intruder had dumped everywhere to use as fuel for the fire he had started. That fire was still burning when the owner and his son arrived, but they were able to extinguish it.
“The intruder was still on the premises, however, and he accosted the owner’s son with the knife and spike and abruptly assaulted him by hitting him in the chest.”
The intruder was overcome, the lawsuit says, and police were notified, “[b]ut, despite the multiple 9-1-1 calls. the police never responded to the scene that evening.”
The suit relays how the drama ended.
“Several CHOP participants on the street who witnessed the incident approached the shop and demanded the release of the apprehended intruder,” the lawsuit says.
“Car Tender’s owner at first insisted that he was waiting for the police to come to the scene. An angry mob of CHOP participants, perhaps as many as 500 although possibly more, gathered around Car Tender’s fence and broke it down, insisting on the release of the intruder. Members of CHOP mob insisted that the police would never dare respond.
“Faced with a threat of mob violence, Car Tender’s owner and son handed the intruder over to CHOP participants.”
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