Abolish the Police? Those Who Survived the Chaos in Seattle Aren’t So Sure. What is it like when a city abandons a neighborhood and the police vanish? Business owners describe a harrowing experience of calling for help and being left all alone.
What follows is excellent reporting, a sign that the NYT can still do that if it wants to. But until today it hasn’t wanted to. The Democrats’ internal polling must be truly horrific. Excerpts:
Faizel Khan was being told by the news media and his own mayor that the protests in his hometown were peaceful, with “a block party atmosphere.”
But that was not what he saw through the windows of his Seattle coffee shop. He saw encampments overtaking the sidewalks. He saw roving bands of masked protesters smashing windows and looting.
Young white men wielding guns would harangue customers as well as Mr. Khan, a gay man of Middle Eastern descent who moved here from Texas so he could more comfortably be out. To get into his coffee shop, he sometimes had to seek the permission of self-appointed armed guards to cross a border they had erected.
“They barricaded us all in here,” Mr. Khan said. “And they were sitting in lawn chairs with guns.”
For 23 days in June, about six blocks in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood were claimed by left-wing demonstrators and declared police-free. Protesters hailed it as liberation — from police oppression, from white supremacy — and a catalyst for a national movement. . . .
Now a group of local businesses owners — including a locksmith, the owner of a tattoo parlor, a mechanic, the owners of a Mexican restaurant and Mr. Khan — is suing the city. The lawsuit claims that “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” resulted in enormous property damage and lost revenue. . . .
The Seattle lawsuit — and interviews with shop owners in cities like Portland and Minneapolis — underscores a key question: Can businesses still rely on local governments, which are now rethinking the role of the police, to keep them safe? The issue is especially tense in Seattle, where the city government not only permitted the establishment of a police-free zone, but provided infrastructure like concrete barriers and portable toilets to sustain it.
Many are nervous about speaking out lest they lend ammunition to a conservative critique of the Black Lives Matter movement. In Portland, Elizabeth Snow McDougall, the owner of Stevens-Ness legal printers, emphasized her support for the cause before describing the damage done to her business.
“One window broken, then another, then another, then another. Garbage to clean off the sidewalk in front of the store every morning. Urine to wash out of our doorway alcove. Graffiti to remove,” Ms. McDougall wrote in an email. “Costs to board up and later we’ll have costs to repair.”
The impact of the occupation on Cafe Argento, Mr. Khan’s coffee shop on Capitol Hill, has been devastating. Very few people braved the barricades set up by the armed occupiers to come in for his coffee and breakfast sandwiches. Cars coming to pick up food orders would turn around. At two points, he and his workers felt scared and called 911. “They said they would not come into CHOP,” said Mr. Khan, referring to one of the names that protesters gave to the occupied Capitol Hill area. “It was lawless.” . . .
He had to start chipping in for private security, a hard thing to do when his business had already been hurt by the coronavirus.
But he considers himself lucky — and he was. Even weeks after the protests, blocks of his previously bustling neighborhood remained boarded up and covered in shattered glass. Many business owners are scared to speak out, Mr. Khan said, because of worries that they would be targeted further.
A confusing array of security teams wandered around, armed with handguns and rifles. Some wore official-looking private security uniforms. Others wore casual clothes and lanyards identifying their affiliation with Black Lives Matter. A third group wore all black with no identifying labels and declined to name their group affiliation.
When a tall man in a trench coat and hiking boots walked over to question Mr. Khan, the man spread his coat open, revealing several pistols on harnesses around his chest and waist. He presented a badge on a lanyard that read “Black Lives Matter Community Patrol.”
His name is Rick Hearns and he identified himself as a longtime security guard and mover who is now a Black Lives Matter community guard, in charge of several others. Local merchants pay for his protection, he said as he handed out his business card. (Mr. Khan said he and his neighbors are now paying thousands of dollars a month for protection from Iconic Global, a Washington State-based private security contractor.)
But even the guy asking for protection money is appalled:
Mr. Hearns has had bad experiences with the police in his own life. He says he wants police reform, but he was appalled by the violent tactics and rhetoric he witnessed during the occupation.
He blamed the destruction and looting on “opportunists,” but also said that much of the damage on Capitol Hill came from a distinct contingent of violent, armed white activists. “It’s antifa,” he said. “They don’t want to see the progress we’ve made. They want chaos.”
Many of the business owners on Capitol Hill agreed: Much of the violence they saw and the intimidation of their patrons came from a group these business owners identified as antifa, which they distinguished from the Black Lives Matter movement. “The idea of taking up the Black movement and turning it into a white occupation, it’s white privilege in its finest definition,” Mr. Khan said. “And that’s what they did.”
ISSUES & INSIGHTS: No Doubt About It: Democrats Are Part Of The Riot Problem. “The Democrats’ silence when asked to condemn Antifa violence is coming through louder than a deranged Joe Biden outburst on the campaign trail.”
MAYBE HE SHOULD ASK PRESIDENT TRUMP FOR HELP: Portland protesters cause mayhem again, police officer hurt: Protests in Portland, Oregon turned violent again even after the mayor pleaded with demonstrators to stay off the streets.
Portland’s nightly protests turned violent again even after the city’s mayor pleaded for demonstrators to stay off the streets and a police officer hit by a rock early Friday suffered what was described as a serious injury.
The protesters who came out Thursday night clashed with officers near a police precinct station and also used metal bars to disable police vehicles, police said in a statement.
The nightly clashes this week have ratcheted up tensions in the city after an agreement was reached last week between state and federal officials for federal agents to pull back from their defense of a federal courthouse that was prevously the focus of the protesters’ rage.
The strategy initially appeared to calm down the protesters, but violent demonstrations re-emerged on the streets this week, miles away from the courthouse – marking a new phase in the nightly protests for Portland that have happened since May 25, following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Tear gas was used by Portland police on protesters Wednesday for the first time since the U.S. agents left the city. On Thursday, Mayor Ted Wheeler warned the protesters clashing with police that “you are not demonstrating, you are attempting to commit murder.”