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After Weeks of Allowing 'Autonomous Zone,' Seattle Police Clear CHOP Amid Violence, Growing Complaints

As the city's police chief said, "Enough is enough," one organizer lamented that "it didn't end how it started and that's the tragedy of the situation."

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best holds a press conference in the area known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) on June 29, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. The press conference was held near the site of an early morning shooting that left one person dead and one in critical condition. (Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images)

Amid growing complaints and following the fatal shootings of two people in Seattle's Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone, known as CHOP, Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an executive order early Wednesday morning and sent the city's police into the area to force the removal of people unwilling to leave the area.

Police reportedly arrested at least 13 protesters after entering the zone, known for the last several weeks as CHOP and told demonstrators that the National Guard would soon be sent in to remove any people who remained. 

Police entered the area at 5:00am local time and gave the zone's inhabitants eight minutes to leave. The area was mostly cleared out and officers were checking restrooms for any remaining protesters by 6:30am, according to NBC News. 

CHOP, which was originally known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), was established on June 8, two weeks into the ongoing nationwide uprising over police brutality and racial injustice that was sparked by the killing of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers.

The zone was defined by Durkan as an area comprising 13 city blocks, including Cal Anderson Park, near the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct. 

Protesters established the zone after police clad in riot gear used tear gas, flash-bang grenades, and pepper spray to disperse demonstrations—actions which were condemned by Durkan and other city officials and led to a court order temporarily banning the use of such weapons by police in the city.

Durkan defended the zone early on, telling CNN the protest could give way to a "summer of love."

"During this time, a number-one priority every American city has is to protect the First Amendment right," Durkan told Chris Cuomo. "Our country was born out of protest. The right to gather, the right to protest, the right to challenge government, when it's wrong, is our most fundamental constitutional right." 

The protest reportedly remained non-violent during daylight hours. Inhabitants of the zone changed the East Precinct's sign to read "Seattle People Department," lit candles at a vigil for people killed by police, handed out free food, and built a community garden. The police mainly stayed out of the area. 

But over the past two weeks at least four shootings have taken place within CHOP. A 16-year-old boy was killed in a shooting that wounded a 14-year-old early Monday morning, just over a week after another young man was shot to death. 

Other non-fatal shootings took place about two weeks into the organized protest. 

"Enough is enough here," Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said Monday. "This is something that's going to need to change. We're asking that people remove themselves from this area for the safety of the people. If they care about people, they're going to have to try to help us to make it safe."

Andre Taylor, an organizer of the protest, told NBC News affiliate KING he was dismayed by the recent violence.

"It didn't end how it started and that's the tragedy of the situation," Taylor said.

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