Update (August 4, 2020): Seattle City Council members Lisa Herbold, Tammy Morales, Teresa Mosqueda and M. Lorena González unveiled a package of proposals on Friday that seeks to address calls to defund the police.
According to the Seattle Times, local organizers are requesting the city’s police department lose half of its funding and for that money to be spent on other programs.
The measures seek to remove nearly 100 officers from the police force, particularly from the harbor patrol, SWAT team, homeless encampment removal team and mounted unit.
The proposal also includes demands for police to be removed from schools and for the department to eliminate its public affairs officers and reduce community outreach efforts as well as special events.
The main obstacle to larger cuts to the department is the Seattle Police Officers Guild, which plans to fight the layoffs through its collective bargaining agreement.
In total, the cuts amount to about $3 million of the police department’s $409 million budget, but council members told the Times that there are bigger plans slated for next year and the potential for more than $100 million to be cut.
“Today’s proposed amendments are really a down payment on reducing the size and scope of what the police department responds to. There are some real roadblocks this year,” González, the council's president, told the Times in an interview.
Some council members criticized their colleagues for promising too much to protesters knowing that most of it could not be accomplished this fiscal year while others said the cuts were not enough.
Police Chief Carmen Best noted that in order for the cuts to be made the police department will have to abide by city rules that state the newest employees will be laid off first. Best told the newspaper that an inordinate amount of the city’s minority officers could be fired first.
The plans also include a new Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, which will be led by civilians, and other efforts to move certain services, like 911 dispatch and emergency management, outside of the police department's purview.
On Monday, multiple city council members spoke to local news outlet KOMO, saying that people had to readjust their expectations for what could realistically be accomplished this year considering the city’s labor laws.
Councilman Andrew Lewis spoke candidly about how rushed efforts to defund the police could backfire and lead the local police union to sue the city and potentially win, which would make the city responsible for paying onerous fines and back pay.
“If we were not successful [in court], we’d have to rehire all those folks, we’d have to give all of them back pay, we’d expose the City to an unfair labor practice,” Lewis said.
“You know I think there’s going to be a lot of people out there who are disappointed, but I think part of our strategy of our Council has to be is … if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Like join us in this effort, and we will make sustained progress together,” Lewis added.
Original (June 12, 2020): People in Seattle demonstrating against police brutality and racism have made their presence felt by creating the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, also known as CHAZ. For more than a week, there were tense, sometimes violent, standoffs with police in the area. But eventually the entire East Precinct was abandoned, infuriating conservative critics and the president, according to local news outlet KIRO 7.
Found the community garden that is being set up in a park nearby “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.” Occupiers have also set up tents in the park. pic.twitter.com/ihFNynNOq0
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) June 11, 2020
According to The Guardian, hundreds of peaceful protesters have been in control of the area for at least three days, with reporter Hallie Golden saying it has "a protest and street fair vibe, with a small garden, medic station, smoking area, and a 'No Cop Co-op,' where people can get supplies and food at no cost."
There have been no reports of violence, and protesters occupying the area have held rallies, speeches and vigils for Floyd.
But also – some protestors tell me they feel this detracts from the goal of making strides towards police accountability & ending systemic racism. pic.twitter.com/t2yWPTfYbX
— Deedee Sun (@DeedeeKIRO7) June 10, 2020
The Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle is well known for its art but has become a source of controversy over the past few days as Trump and conservative news outlets repeatedly referred to the protesters as "terrorists" and "anarchists."
"Radical Left Governor @JayInslee and the Mayor of Seattle are being taunted and played at a level that our great Country has never seen before. Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will. This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stooped IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST!" the president wrote on Twitter Thursday.
"Seattle Mayor says, about the anarchists takeover of her city, “it is a Summer of Love”. These Liberal Dems don’t have a clue. The terrorists burn and pillage our cities, and they think it is just wonderful, even the death. Must end this Seattle takeover now!" Trump wrote in another tweet on Friday morning.
Seattle Mayor says, about the anarchists takeover of her city, “it is a Summer of Love”. These Liberal Dems don’t have a clue. The terrorists burn and pillage our cities, and they think it is just wonderful, even the death. Must end this Seattle takeover now!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2020
Radical Left Governor @JayInslee and the Mayor of Seattle are being taunted and played at a level that our great Country has never seen before. Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will. This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stopped IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 11, 2020
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Gov. Jay Inslee have defended their responses to the situation and have stood up for the protesters, despite facing withering criticism and calls to resign from those same demonstrators.
Durkan, Inslee and Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best have tried to strike a balance between maintaining basic safety in the area and respecting the protesters' rights.
In a thread of tweets on Thursday, Durkan blasted Trump for wading into the situation and politicizing it nationally.
It's clear @realDonaldTrump doesn’t understand what’s happening on five square blocks of our City. Cal Anderson and Capitol Hill has for decades been a place for free speech, community, and self expression.
— Mayor Jenny Durkan (@MayorJenny) June 11, 2020
"Lawfully gathering and expressing first amendment rights, demanding we do better as a society and provide true equity for communities of color is not terrorism – it is patriotism. The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone #CHAZ is 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. Given his track record, it's not hard to believe that Trump is wrong, yet again," Durkan wrote.
She went on to commend the area's new residents for staying peaceful and positive.
"For the thousands of individuals who have been on Capitol Hill, I think you’ve seen what I’ve seen: The painting of Black Lives Matter along Pine Street, food trucks, spaghetti potlucks, teach-ins, and movies. Seattle is passionate, we demand justice, and I believe we will be at the forefront of true, meaningful change. Nothing will distract our city from the work that needs to be done," she added.
A real leader would see nation-wide protests – borne from hundreds of years of immense grief of our Black community, communities of color, and so many others – and the call to become an anti-racist society, as an opportunity to build a better nation.
— Mayor Jenny Durkan (@MayorJenny) June 11, 2020
In her statement, Durkan reminded Trump that "it is unconstitutional and illegal to send the military to Seattle."
We will not let this president be a distraction.
Centuries of slavery and systemic racism won’t be dismantled overnight, but I believe that Seattle can be a model for our country. We must work to make progress together, and it is clear that Seattle is ready to act.
— Mayor Jenny Durkan (@MayorJenny) June 11, 2020
She then listed off initiatives aimed at addressing the protesters' demands, including educational programs, mental health programs, business incubators for minorities and vacated marijuana convictions.
"All of this is a start, and believe me when I say I know that it is not enough. None of these actions will undo hundreds of years of systemic racism overnight. But at the @CityofSeattle, together with community, we are committed to doing that work," she said.
Inslee sent out his own tweets criticizing the president's words.
A man who is totally incapable of governing should stay out of Washington state’s business. “Stoop” tweeting. https://t.co/O6i04qmZ9v
— Jay Inslee (@JayInslee) June 11, 2020
Despite the positive words from city officials, protesters in CHAZ have called for both Durkan and Best to resign, which both said they will not do, according to The Stranger.
In a video statement released on Thursday, Best said "leaving the precinct was not my decision" and that she condemned reports of vandalism and violence.
“I want to update you all on the situation at the East Precinct. The decision to board up the precinct, our precinct, our home, the first precinct I worked in, was something I have been holding off. You should know, leaving the precinct was not my decision. You fought for days to protect it. I asked you to stand on that line. Day in and day out, to be pelted with projectiles, to be screamed at, threatened and in some cases hurt. Then to have a change of course nearly two weeks in, it seems like an insult to you and our community," she said.
“Ultimately the city had other plans for the building and relented to severe public pressure. I’m angry about how this all came about. … There was vandalism to our city streets and our building. But today, the precinct remains standing. No officers were hurt. No force was used. We have heard that there are armed people ‘patrolling’ the streets near 12th and Pine. Of course, this is very concerning, especially because we don’t know who these people are," Best added.
She also said that she had received reports that armed people are "demanding payment from business owners in exchange for protection" or "demanding to see identification from people who live in the area."
"This is not legal, and we’ve asked anyone who may be experiencing this to come forward and file a police report so that we can investigate these crimes," Best said.
Despite the unfounded concerns over violence and rule of law, people who have been in the area have said it is a positive place where police are not needed.
“I think what we’re seeing in Chaz is just a snippet of a reality that the people can have. I think what it’s doing is exposing the unnecessary need of an over-policed state,” organizer Dae Shik Kim Jr. told The Guardian.
Lisa McCallister had similar things to say, telling The Guardian that the area was amazing.
“It’s the retaking of a space that was covered in violence for no reason. They were teargassing and flash-banging at 12.30 at night for hours. And then to kind of completely retake this space with peace and love,” McCallister said.