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Seattle police chief says rapes and robberies are occurring in CHAZ area and officers can't respond to them

Public safety issue

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best (JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said violent crimes are occurring within the area of the city taken over by protesters, and officers are unable to respond quickly enough, if at all.

Earlier this week, a group of anti-police protesters took control of a six-block area of the city that has become known as the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone," or CHAZ, which includes a police precinct. Officers surrendered the East Precinct and vacated the area. Best would not confirm who gave the order.

"Our calls for service have more than tripled," Best said. "These are responses to emergency calls — rapes, robberies, and all sorts of violent acts that have been occurring in the area that we're not able to get to."

Although President Donald Trump has called for city and state officials to disband the autonomous zone, and the head of Seattle's police union called the situation "absolutely appalling," both Mayor Jenny Durkan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) appear content to allow the CHAZ to stand unbothered, at least for now.

The protesters are calling for the police department to be abolished, ICE to be banned from the city, and some prisons to be closed, among other requests in pursuit of their vision of racial, economic, and criminal justice equity. Some demands, like free college and the employment of black doctors and nurses, seem unrelated to the original purpose of the protests that occurred across the country.

Inslee said the CHAZ is "unpermitted" but will be allowed to continue for now since it is a peaceful protest. He said he would oppose military intervention by President Trump.

"I spoke with [Durkan] and her team about the situation on Capitol Hill," Inslee wrote on Twitter. "Although unpermitted, and we should remember we are still in a pandemic, the area is largely peaceful. Peaceful protests are fundamentally American, and I am hopeful there will be a peaceful resolution.

"What we will not allow are threats of military violence against Washingtonians coming from the White House," Inslee continued. "The U.S. military serves to protect Americans, not the fragility of an insecure president."

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