'They've given us the precinct.' Seattle Police backs away, and protesters take back Pine
The Seattle Police Department announced Monday afternoon that the barricade near the East Precinct -- where officers have used pepper spray, tear gas and flash bang grenades on demonstrators for eight days -- would be removed.
During a press briefing, Police Chief Carmen Best said Seattle Police would try something new.
“We’re not going to evacuate or abandon the East Precinct," she said. "We will be hardening the East Precinct facility by boarding up the exterior windows, and applying fire retardant to the building exterior and installing fencing."
Best said demonstrators should be able to walk freely around Capitol Hill.
“This is an exercise in trust and de-escalation,” she said.
On Monday evening, a protester addressed the crowd: “They’ve given us the precinct, and we’ve got to be smart, and we have to work together. And we have to remain peaceful, and we have to remain strong. This is the message that we are trying to deliver.
“That if they give us the precinct, we’re not going to try to destroy it. We’re not going to do what they want us to do.
“We’re not going to do what they want us to do. We’re going to take care of it, because this is our street.”
Update: Councilmember Kshama Sawant announced a public meeting to discuss strategy 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Cal Anderson Park.
The change comes after more than 12,000 complaints about the police response to the mostly peaceful demonstrations. Seattle Police has said officers have had to use pepper spray, tear gas and flash bangs because demonstrators had hurled bottles, rocks and used incendiary devices against police.
City council members on Monday said it was unclear how many of these had actually been used, citing evidence of one candle thrown.
Many people are also calling for defunding the department.
Later in the afternoon, Omari Salisbury depicted the scene on his livestream. He described it as a “view we haven’t seen for eight days.”
Salisbury, a journalist, said that earlier in the day, Seattle Police were building a fence across Pine Street. A few hours later, they stopped working on the fence and began moving out of the East Precinct.
“We saw moving trucks in and out,” Salisbury said on his stream. “Officers moving bags. I know that the city is calling it a reduction in footprint. It’s impossible for me to say there’s nobody in this building, but I don’t think that there’s anybody home.”
He said they had expected a fireproofing foam to be sprayed onto the East Precinct, but that no such fireproofing appears to have happened.
Salisbury continued: “Pine Street, for the first time in eight days, is open.”
But lest anyone feel that the city would sleep easy tonight, Salisbury said that many people were wearing bulletproof vests because of credible threats made from white supremacists.
The threats felt much more real after the shooting on Sunday, when 31-year-old Nikolas Fernandez sped his car into the crowd and shot a man, 27-year-old Daniel Gregory. Gregory was in satisfactory condition at Harborview.
As the police left, the protesters claimed the area and barricaded it themselves.
“We are seeing quite a few bullet proof vests out here,” Salisbury said on his stream. “A lot of protesters out here before, not armed, who are now armed. It’s a different situation.”
And then he signed off to get a bulletproof vest for himself.
Around 10 p.m., two other livestreams showed protesters wearing body armor. One protester called for people with guns and know-how to go to the barricades, in case there was a threat from white supremacists known as Proud Boys.