The mayor of Seattle has said it would be unconstitutional and illegal for US President Donald Trump to send military forces into the city to clear protesters occupying a neighbourhood, as he has suggested.
- Activists established a makeshift encampment behind barricades in the Capitol Hill district
- The area has been occupied since police abandoned their East Precinct station
- Protesters used barricades to section off the area, calling it the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone”
But Mayor Jenny Durkan, speaking at an afternoon press conference, has not said how or when authorities would remove the roughly 500 demonstrators who have established a makeshift encampment behind barricades in the Capitol Hill district.
“It is unconstitutional and illegal to send the military into Seattle,” said Ms Durkan, a first-term Democrat.
“There is no imminent threat of an invasion of Seattle.”
Activists have occupied the area since police on Monday (local time) moved street barricades and abandoned their East Precinct station in a move city officials said was aimed to reduce tension.
In a YouTube video, Seattle’s police chief, Carmen Best, said it was not her decision to leave the precinct.
“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,” Ms Best told her department.
Major US cities have been convulsed by marches, rallies and sometimes violence for more than two weeks over the death of a black man, 46-year-old George Floyd, while in Minneapolis police custody.
A bystander recorded video of the now-dismissed officer holding a knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
‘Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone’
Protesters are standing against racial inequality and calling for the defunding of Seattle police.(Reuters: Lindsey Wasson)
Protesters used the police barricades to section off the area, calling it the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.”
“We’re not going to let this happen in Seattle. If we have to go in, we’re going to go in,” Mr Trump told Fox News on Thursday.
“Let the governor do it. He’s got great National Guard troops … But one way or the other, it’s going to get done. These people are not going to occupy a major portion of a great city.”
On Sunday, a man drove his car into a crowd of protesters in the area that became the “autonomous zone” the following day.
He then shot and wounded a demonstrator who confronted him as he came to a stop, according to police and eyewitness video.
Seattle Police department’s East Precinct remains unstaffed.(Reuters: Lindsey Wasson)
The man who was shot was in stable condition at a hospital while the driver was arrested.
Police officers returned to the East Precinct building on Thursday to inspect it for damage but it remains unstaffed.
Ms Best said the neighbourhood could not remain occupied but neither she nor Ms Durkan would say how the city planned to dismantle the camp.