Seattle police say they have received reports of armed guards and potential extortion in a self-declared autonomous zone that spans several blocks and includes a now-closed precinct.
“We’ve heard, anecdotally, reports of citizens and businesses being asked to pay a fee to operate within this area. This is the crime of extortion. If anyone has been subjected to this, we need them to call 911,” Assistant Chief of Police Deanna Nollette said on Wednesday.
Protesters calling to defund the police and make sweeping reforms to law enforcement tactics have declared a six-block region — spanning 13th Avenue past 11th Avenue, near Cal Anderson Park, and from East Olive Street to East Pike Street — the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ).
The region encompasses the SPD’s East Precinct, which was abandoned by cops on Monday following days of violent clashes between law enforcement and protesters in the wake of George Floyd’s death, as well as parts of Capitol Hill.
Officers retreated from the area in an effort to quell the violence– which included multiple shootings, one that was sparked after a man rammed his vehicle into a crowd of protesters. Police officers have deployed tear gas and pepper spray to disperse large groups of people.