News World US Seattle protesters set up ‘autonomous zone’ after taking over police station

Seattle protesters set up ‘autonomous zone’ after taking over police station

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Protesters in Seattle have occupied several blocks of the US city and set up an “autonomous zone” after police agreed to vacate the area.

The occupation follows days of violent confrontations emerging from George Floyd protests in the western US city – and it has President Donald Trump fuming.

The “autonomous zone” sprang up after police removed barricades near one of Seattle’s main police stations and effectively abandoned it.

Mr Trump vented about the takeover on Twitter, telling Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan and state governor Jay Inslee their city had been taken over by “anarchists”. He has also called the protesters “domestic terrorists”.

“Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will,” he tweeted.

Last weekend, police used tear gas, pepper spray and flash bangs to try to disperse protesters. Eventually, they pulled down the barricades around their station and left.

In the days after, protesters set up their own barriers across several blocks of Seattle’s Capitol Hill.

Every day, crowds come to listen to speakers on various social issues. Police are forbidden to enter, and documentaries are screened at night.

Signs along the footpaths read “You are entering free Capitol Hill” and “No cop co-op”, while people hand out water and other supplies.

seattle autonomous protest
A sign on the abandoned police station. Photo: Getty

On Thursday (local time), Ms Durkan pushed back against Mr Trump’s threat, saying she would resist any effort to use force to disband the demonstration.

“We do not need anyone, including the President, to try to sow further divide, further distrust and misinformation,” she said.

“The threat to invade Seattle, to divide and incite violence in our city is not only unwelcome, it would be illegal.”

Among their list of demands, the “autonomous zone” organisers want the city’s police department abolished, use of armed force banned, officers removed from schools, youth jails abolished and compensation for victims of police brutality.

seattle autonomous protest
A Black Lives Matter mural underway on a street within the zone. Photo: AAP

Ms Durkan said the group’s activities had been peaceful, and they were not terrorists.

“Lawfully gathering and expressing First Amendment rights, demanding we do better as a society, and providing true equity for communities of colour is not terrorism,” she said.

“It is patriotism.”

Earlier, Mr Inslee also told Mr Trump to stay away.

“A man who is totally incapable of governing should stay out of Washington state’s business. ‘Stoop’ tweeting,” Mr Inslee tweeted – mocking Mr Trump’s poor spelling in his own tweet.

In any case, it is difficult to know what Mr Trump would do – Mr Inslee has already ordered the state’s National Guard to disband after riots following Mr Floyd’s death. Mr Trump is not popular in Washington state – he got just 10 per cent of the vote at the 2016 election.

Mr Inslee said later he hoped for a peaceful resolution to the occupation, even though it was unauthorised.

“What we will not allow are threats of military violence against Washingtonians coming from the White House,” he wrote.

“The US military serves to protect Americans, not the fragility of an insecure president.”

Ms Durkan compared the “autonomous zone” to block parties or city parades, saying it was “really not that much of an operational challenge”.

A decision on whether police returned to the abandoned station would be based on “an ongoing assessment about when it would be safe and appropriate for them to move in there”.

-with agencies