Seattle police move in to clear protesters from Chop zone

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Seattle police move in to clear protesters from Chop zone

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Media captionPolice clear protesters from Seattle’s self-governed zone

Police have moved in to clear crowds out of Seattle’s self-governed zone set up by protesters three weeks ago.

A number of people were arrested as heavily equipped officers swept into the area on Wednesday morning following an order by the city mayor.

The Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (Chop) zone was set up amid anger over the death in police custody of African American George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The self-policed protest has a Black Lives Matter mural and communal garden.

Mayor Jenny Durkan said that until now the authorities had “reasonably facilitated an ongoing exercise” of free speech and demonstration rights under the US constitution.

But she said those rights “do not require the city to provide limitless sanctuary to occupy city property, damage city and private property, obstruct the right of way or foster dangerous conditions”.

The mayor also mentioned recent shootings in the area that left two people dead.

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said the area had become “lawless and brutal”, while the city police department warned that “anyone who remains in the area, or returns to the area, is subject to arrest”.

Some protesters erected a small barricade trying to stop the police – but there were no reports of violence.

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Reuters

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The zone was initially known as Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (Chaz)

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Getty Images

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Municipal workers were later seen dismantling barriers put up by protesters

President Donald Trump had demanded the north-western Washington state and Seattle take action to remove the protesters.

The area was initially known as Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (Chaz), and is in the city’s trendy arts district, which has been gentrified in recent years.

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Protesters also refer to it as the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, or Chop

How did the protest zone come about?

The protests in Seattle and other US cities began in response to the death of George Floyd in the northern Minnesota state on 25 May.

This came after a video emerged of a white police officer kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while he was being arrested.

Mr Floyd was heard saying “I can’t breathe”.

The police officer, named as Derek Chauvin, was later charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other arresting officers were charged with aiding and abetting murder.

According to local media, Seattle’s Chop zone was largely peaceful during the day.

But at night, the area was said to often become tense as demonstrators marched and openly armed watchmen patrolled the streets.