City of Seattle Engages with Capitol Hill Organized Protest to make Safety Changes

The Capitol Hill Organized Protest has emerged as a gathering place where community members can demand change of their local, state, and federal government. Capitol Hill and Cal Anderson Park have long been a gathering place for justice. While there have been inaccurate and misleading depictions of the CHOP from the President and some national media, the City believes first amendment activities can continue while also maintaining public safety and allowing access for residents and businesses who operate in the area.  Mayor Durkan believes these changes can help ensure any focus of the CHOP and Cal Anderson will allow for peaceful demonstrations to continue.       

Beginning last Tuesday, City officials have been on site on Capitol Hill to work meet community needs including hygiene, sanitation and safety. Utilities including Puget Sound Energy and SPU have been able to respond to the area for service. Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best has visited the site multiple times. Over the past week, conversations continued between City officials, organizers onsite for the CHOP, residents and businesses. The City is committed to maintaining space for community to come together, protest and exercise their first amendment rights. Minor changes to the protest zone will implement safer and sturdier barriers to protect individuals in this area, allow traffic to move throughout the Capitol Hill neighborhood, ease access for residents of apartment building in the surrounding areas, and help local businesses manage deliveries and logistics. Additionally all plans have been crafted with the goal of allowing access for emergency personnel including fire trucks.  

Every day, Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins, Seattle Department of Transportation Director Sam Zimbabwe, and Seattle Public Utilities General Manager Mami Hara have been on site. On Sunday, they  held a meeting with onsite organizers, small businesses, and residents to discuss proposed changes to the protest zone. In coordination with protesters onsite, work began at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday to remove a tent barrier at 10th and Pine and replace it with a sturdier concrete barrier to improve public safety. The City has successfully worked with protesters onsite to reconfigure the CHOP to allow for public safety and better access for the local community. That has involved rerouting traffic, freeing up alley access, opened streets, and replacing makeshift barriers with heavy concrete barriers that can be painted.    

The area adjacent to Cal Anderson park on Pine between 10th and 11th will remain closed. This street is now home to the Black Lives Matter street art.  

A top priority for community access is opening 12th Avenue, a City arterial road, which typically carries more traffic. Under these changes, 12th Ave will become one way on the south side of Pine St in order to accommodate a protest zone in the west lanes and allow access and movement of vehicles in the east lanes. An alley access zone was also set up on the South side of Pine between 11th and 12th to allow for apartment building access.  

The Seattle Police Department will dispatch to respond to significant life-safety issues in the area. The Seattle Police Department’s definition of life-safety issues may include an active shooter incident, an assault, a structure fire, significant medical emergency (i.e. heart attack, stroke, trauma) and other incidents that threaten a person’s life safety.  

Over the weekend the City also reached out to community groups including Black Lives Matter, Urban League, Choose 180, Not This Time, Africatown and others to share the plan for traffic and safety mitigation in this area.   

Preserving a space for demonstrators to come together is one of several actions the City has taken to respond to the community’s call for change. Over the last two weeks, Mayor Durkan has prioritized meeting with community leaders and demonstration organizers, heard their concerns, and is committed to enduring systemic changes to reimagine what policing looks like in Seattle and to addressing systemic racism. Thus far, community voices have led to new Seattle Police Department (SPD) protocol on mourning badges and body cameras, has led the state to move towards creating a Statewide Independent Investigation for officers who use deadly force, and much more. Prior to the CHOP forming, the Mayor also committed to investing $100 million directly into community and creating a community-driven Black Commission. The City recognizes that more must be done, and the Mayor and department leaders are committed to that work.