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Businesses and residents bring lawsuit against Seattle over CHOP

caption: A very quiet Wednesday June 24 morning in the Capitol Hill Organized Protest.
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A very quiet Wednesday June 24 morning in the Capitol Hill Organized Protest.

A group of Capitol Hill business owners and residents have filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle over its handling the area known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, or CHOP.

Among other arguments, the lawsuit claims that the city’s actions amount to an illegal ceding of public property without due process. The lawsuit accuses the city of actively endorsing and enabling the CHOP.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday evening in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington.

“This lawsuit does not seek to undermine CHOP participants’ message or present a counter-message," the lawsuit states.

"Rather, 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 argues the city’s decision has subjected residents and businesses to extensive property damage, public safety dangers, and an inability to use and access their properties.

The complaint says plaintiffs have suffered financial and other harms.

A press release sent by the law firm representing the plaintiffs states that it’s time for the city to end the occupation within the neighborhood.

The statement notes that after several shootings in or around the CHOP, the city has suggested bringing police officers back to the abandoned East Precinct. But it also notes that no timeline has been set.

The statement says the plaintiffs support the free speech rights of the plaintiffs who have gathered on Capitol Hill and stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. But they also want a police presence restored in the neighborhood.

The suit seeks class action status, a court order to ensure public access to streets and public safety, a trial by jury, and damages to be determined at trial.

A spokesperson for the City Attorney’s office said via email: "We haven't received the lawsuit yet, but when we do, we'll review it and respond accordingly."

A spokesperson from Mayor Jenny Durkan's office said in a statement: “City leadership have been on the ground daily having discussions with demonstrators, residents and businesses and trusted community-based, Black-led organizations to determine a path forward that protects the right to peacefully protest and keeps people safe.”

The statement notes that many individuals have left and that a service hub has been set up at Seattle Central College.

“Over the coming days, City and community organizations will continue to work with individuals to encourage them to peacefully depart in the evening for their safety and the safety of the surrounding community, while also encouraging individuals to peacefully demonstrate across the City throughout the daytime hours,” the statement said.

You can read the lawsuit below or here in PDF form.

This post has been updated.

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