Seattle to end police-free protest zone after shootings

Seattle to end police-free protest zone after shootings

Seattle, June 23 (IANS) Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has said the city in the US state of Washington plans to take back a district that is being occupied by armed protesters, after three people were shot during the weekend.

Durkan, who has been under growing pressure to crack down on the protest zone, told a news conference on Monday that the city police department would return to its precinct “peacefully and in the near future”, the BBC reported.

“The cumulative impacts of the gatherings and protests and the night-time atmosphere and violence “has led to increasingly difficult circumstances for our businesses and residents.

“The impacts have increased and the safety has decreased,” she was quoted as saying in the BBC report.

Her announcement followed a shooting on Sunday night at the edge of the zone in the Capitol Hill neighbourhood.

The 17-year-old victim, who was shot in the arm, refused to speak to the police.

In another shooting on Saturday, a 19-year-old man died and a 33-year-old man was left critically wounded.

At Monday’s news conference, Police Chief Carmen Best said her officers had been confronted by a “hostile crowd” after the Saturday attack that hampered emergency workers as they tried to reach the victims.

She said that since the East Precinct had been abandoned, rapes, assaults, burglaries and vandalism had been reported in the area.

According to local media, the area is largely peaceful during the day, with people relaxing in the park while volunteers hand out free food, reports the BBC.

It spans a six-block radius of the city’s trendy arts scene.

Protesters have planted a community garden and painted a large “Black Lives Matter” mural on the street.

But at night, the area is said to become tense as demonstrators march and openly armed watchmen patrol the streets.

The protests in Seattle began in response to last month’s death in police custody of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis.

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