Protesters stand near large barriers as city crews wait to clear the streets — but not the campers — around the East Precinct (Image: CHS)
With reporting by Jake Goldstein-Street
The city’s process to begin the physical dismantling of CHOP began early Friday morning with a line of Seattle Department of Transportation trucks stretched down 12th Ave.
Like most moments around the Capitol Hill protest zone, things didn’t immediately go as planned. By 7:30 AM, things were on hold after the head of SDOT agreed to provide a “formal letter” to the camp explaining the day’s planned actions to clear art and barriers from the right of way and begin the the clean-up of Cal Anderson Park.
Like most moments around the Capitol Hill protest zone, it seemed clear the letter would be only a next step and the city trucks weren’t going anywhere.
UPDATE 6:15 PM: A marathon meeting between Mayor Jenny Durkan and camp organizers Friday afternoon inside 14th Ave’s First African Methodist Episcopal Church?produced a lengthy airing of grievances and debate over a Sunday morning deadline.
Nobody from the mayor’s office spoke to media after the more than three hour session but those who attended said the mayor was clear — the protest campers can stay outside the East Precinct and the large cement barriers that protect that camping area can stay but the other streets around the Capitol Hill protest zone must be clear of barriers by Sunday morning.
Whether there is agreement on that deadline is another matter.
Independent journalist Omari Salisbury hosted an impromptu press conference at 12th and Pine following the meeting after he said he had been asked to attend by the camp representatives meeting with the mayor. but that the mayor herself asked him to stop providing live updates of the proceedings.
Salisbury described the Sunday morning deadline and said that the mayor met most of the camp’s demands by either explaining how the city is already doing things like in-patrol car video, or detailing her initiatives that she felt would yield better results in a kind of “working on, better idea, met, or out of her hands” approach.
Salisbury said there was also a lot of discussion of increasing the amount of human services being offered to help homeless and undershletered people clear Cal Anderson. Salisbury said there was no formal agreement on the Sunday morning barrier deadline but that there was not active opposition from the camp representatives as the meeting was winding down.
Mark Anthony, a member of the CHOP camp who attended the session, said no decisions have been made about Sunday but that the camp is weighing its options. “I’ve already said the point of a movement it to remain moving,” Anthony said.
But Anthony said, for now the camp will “continue on.”
“The thing that we’re waiting for next is to find a solution that works for both the city and the protesters so we can continue at a new location.”
Anthony said the mayor won’t consider converting the East Precinct into a community center. Anthony’s proposal is to integrate the facility with a social services center.
As for concerns about another flare up of violence this weekend one week after last Saturday’s shootings, Anthony said much of Friday’s meeting was about safety and that there is hope for a better plan to create safe meeting spaces where camp volunteers can meet up with emergency responders and avoid potentially deadly delays.
SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe drew a crowd Friday morning (Image: CHS)
Workers said they were there to clear out things like wood barriers and store art for pickup. One handed out donuts while a protester blocked a backhoe parked in the middle of 12th Ave with a bored city worker at the wheel. Nobody, they said, was there to sweep out the campers.
A large crowd formed around SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe as he made his case in an orange SDOT vest and black COVID-19 mask for clearing the right of way and making the area more “normal” for businesses and residents. Continue reading