People work to dry off large letters that read “Black Lives Matter” painted on a street near Cal Anderson Park on Thursday, inside what is being called the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

People work to dry off large letters that read “Black Lives Matter” painted on a street near Cal Anderson Park on Thursday, inside what is being called the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Trump fumes, threatens over festive protest zone in Seattle

“Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will,” Trump tweeted at Mayor Durkan and Gov. Inslee.

By Ted Warren and Ali Swenson / Associated Press

SEATTLE — Following days of violent confrontations with protesters, police in Seattle have largely withdrawn from part of a neighborhood where protesters have created a festival-like scene that has President Donald Trump fuming.

Trump taunted Gov. Jay Inslee and Mayor Jenny Durkan about the situation on Twitter and said the city had been taken over by “anarchists.” “Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will,” Trump tweeted.

The president continued his complaints in a Thursday interview with the Fox News Channel. “If we have to go in, we’re going to go in,” Trump said. “These people are not going to occupy a major portion of a great city.”

The “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” stretches over a couple city blocks and sprung up after police on Monday removed barricades near the East Precinct and basically abandoned the structure after officers used tear gas, pepper spray and flash bangs over the weekend to disperse demonstrators they said were assaulting them with projectiles.

The president has sparred before with Inslee and Durkan — both liberal Democrats. Inslee previously sought his party’s presidential nomination.

Inslee tweeted Thursday that state officials will not allow threats of military violence from the White House. “The U.S. military serves to protect Americans, not the fragility of an insecure president,” he tweeted.

The zone set up by protesters stretches a portion of Capitol Hill, where dozens of people show up to listen to speakers calling for police reform, racial justice and compensation for Native groups on whose land the city of Seattle was founded.

Signs proclaim “You are entering free Capitol Hill” and “No cop co-op” along sidewalks where people sell water and other wares. On Thursday, speakers used a microphone to discuss their demands and how to address the police presence after they visited the precinct during the day. Down the street, artists continued painting a block-long “Black Lives Matter” mural on the street.

“The people that you see here have all come together because we see injustice in our system and we want to be part of the solution,” said Mark Henry Jr. of Black Lives Matter.

Henry said Trump’s rant about the gathering was unfounded. “Donald Trump can call us a terrorist if he likes to, but what you see out here is people coming together and loving each other,” he said.

A man leaves a red paint handprint on a barricade near a closed Seattle police precinct Tuesday in Seattle, following protests over the death of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

A man leaves a red paint handprint on a barricade near a closed Seattle police precinct Tuesday in Seattle, following protests over the death of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Over the weekend, police were sharply criticized by City Council members and other elected leaders. Since officers dialed back their tactics, the demonstrations have largely been peaceful.

Police officials say they are looking to reopen the precinct. At a news conference Wednesday, Assistant Chief Deanna Nollette said the barriers were removed from the front of the building after it became a flashpoint between officers and protesters.

Nollette said the precinct has been boarded up because of credible threats that it would be vandalized or burned. She offered no details about the threats and no fires have been reported at the site.

She said protesters have set up their own barricades, which are intimidating some residents.

Police Chief Carmen Best posted a video message to officers Thursday in which she said the decision to leave the Capitol Hill precinct wasn’t hers and she was angry about it. She also reiterated that police had been harassed and assaulted during protests.

“Ultimately, the city had other plans for the building and relented to severe public pressure,” Best said.

At a Thursday news conference neither Best nor Durkan made it clear who decided that police should leave the precinct.

Durkan said regarding Trump’s statements about Seattle that one of the things the president will never understand is that listening to community is not a weakness, but a strength.

“A real leader would see nationwide protest, the grief in so many communities of color, particularly our black communities, and the call to be an anti-racist society, as an opportunity for America. An opportunity to build a better nation,” she said.

Protesters have said they want to see the precinct turned into a community center or used for purposes other than law enforcement.

City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant disputed accounts of violence or intimidation by protesters within the area on Capitol Hill and said it was more like a street fair with political discussions and a drum circle.

“The right wing has been spreading rumors that there is some sort of lawlessness and crime taking place at the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, but it is exactly the opposite of that,” said Sawant, a socialist and a critic of Durkan and the police.

Sawant said she wants the precinct to be “converted into a public resource that will actually be helpful to society.”

Associated Press writer Lisa Baumann contributed from Seattle.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

In this image taken Jan. 16, 2013, two people walk the beach at Discovery Park in Seattle. At 534 acres, Discovery Park is the largest park in the city and it features seaside bluffs, views of the Puget Sound, trails, a light house and a beach.  (AP Photo/Manuel Valdes )
Operating error sends wastewater into Puget Sound

The public is advised to avoid contact with the water at Discovery Park, which is near the sewage spill.

UW professor fired for sexual misconduct involving student

John D. Sahr exploited his position to have “inappropriate sexual contact” with a 17-year-old student.

A lone man walks a dog, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, near apartments in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday, March 23, 2020, ordered nonessential businesses to close and the state's more than 7 million residents to stay home in efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Seattle rents down 20% since start of COVID-19 pandemic

Median rents in Seattle were $1,395 for a one-bedroom and $1,739 for a two-bedroom.

Short-staffed care homes to receive help from state

Six teams will work at assisted-living facilities, nursing homes and other long-term care providers.

FILE - In this May 15, 2019 file photo, the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River is seen from the air near Colfax, Wash. Environmental groups are vowing to continue their fight to remove four dams on the Snake River in Washington state they say are killing salmon that are a key food source for endangered killer whales. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Study looks at impact of ocean and dams on salmon runs

Fish recovery efforts should focus on the ocean, not on freshwater, says the BPA-funded scientist.

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman talks to reporters in her office, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Wyman was talking about a series of election- and ballot-security bills her office is asking the Washington Legislature to consider during the current session. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Washington secretary of state certifies election results

Joe Biden will receive the state’s 12 electoral votes at the Electoral College on Dec. 14.

Visitors view photos of people who were killed by police in Washington State and elsewhere, Tuesday, June 16, 2020, inside what has been named the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone in Seattle. Police have pulled back from a part of the city's Capitol Hill neighborhood near the department's East Precinct after recent clashes with people protesting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Lawmakers, activists set ambitious agenda for police reform

The bills being drafted represent a broad overhaul of policing and police accountability in Washington.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference at Rideau Cottage during the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)
Canada: US border measures to last until virus under control

About 400,000 people crossed the world’s longest international border each day before the pandemic.

FILE - In this 2013 file photo, cone collectors like Gabe Thorne, of Hamilton, head up into the high country around the west to climb to the very top of whitebark pine and collect cones from disease-free trees in Sula, Mont. U.S. officials say climate change, beetles and a deadly fungus are imperiling the long-term survival of the high-elevation tree found in the western U.S.. (AP Photo/Ravalli Republic via AP, File)
High mountain pine tree that feeds grizzlies is threatened

Whitebark pine trees grow in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming, Montana, California and Nevada.

Bellingham women suspected in terrorist attack against BNSF

They allegedly interfered with the railroad’s safety features by placing a shunt on the tracks.

Kennewick teen one of 1st children in state to die from COVID

About 15% of cases in Washington are in young people up to age 19.

Prosecutors: Hate crimes on the rise in King County

Two years ago, there were 30 hate crimes in King County. So far in 2020, the number is up to 51.