(CNN)Police dispersed demonstrators in the Capitol Hill Occupation Protest (CHOP) area of Seattle and detained at least 31 people on Wednesday after Mayor Jenny Durkan called an emergency.
Hundreds of police officers subsequently worked to clean up the area, and the damage is “completely catastrophic,” said Carmen Best, Seattle Police Chief.
The chief was “completely shocked by the number, the amount of vandalism, trash, and destruction of property,” she told a news conference.
Durkan released an executive order Tuesday in response to “confirmed life protection, public health and property problems” in and around the East Precinct and Cal Anderson Park area, which has been occupied by demonstrators for the past few weeks and marred by a series of shootings.
“Mayor Jenny Durkan has issued an executive order to vacate the neighborhood because of continuing crime and public safety problems in the East Precinct / Cal Anderson Park area. Seattle police will be in the area this morning to enforce the Mayor ‘s order,” the Seattle Police Department tweeted.
Seattle Police look on as DOT workers remove barricades Tuesday at the CHOP zone in Seattle.
Those staying in the area or returning to it would be subject to arrest by police tweeted.
According to police, the 31 arrests were for lack of dispersal, obstruction, assault and unlawful possession of weapons.
Best said the move comes after violence in the region in a statement.
“Like I said, and I’m going to say again, I support nonviolent marches. Black Lives Matter, and I, too, want to help propel this movement for positive change in our culture.
The four- to six-block neighborhood — known as CHOP or CHAZ — has been occupied by thousands of demonstrators since early June in an attempt to demand police reform following the police killing of George Floyd. In the past two weeks, however, there have been five shootings in the city, including two fatal ones, undermining its original motive.
“It is over because of the killings,” community leader Andre Taylor from Seattle told CNN last week. “I’ve told people don’t concentrate on the place here. CHOP isn’t a venue, it’s an concept.”
Dustin Akers, who lives in an apartment complex in the heart of the CHOP district, took multiple police videos around 5 a.m. to clear the neighborhood. Monday.
Working in the neighborhood for the past two weeks has been “incredibly chaotic and violent all around the clock,” Akers told CNN.
“It started well intentioned and then soon took a turn for the worse. Now the inhabited area is vacant with tents and supplies scattered all over.”
He also shared an excerpt which was shared with residents on June 30 by his apartment complex, Packard Building Apartments, owned by Equity Residential.
“Since the occupation of the streets surrounding our house, residents have been exposed to abuse, intimidation, vandalism, noise, lewd conduct, public defecation, day-to-day fights and restricted access to the property,” the complex wrote.
Residents came out of the homes and apartments and “thanks profusely to the officers for being there to help clean up the neighborhood,” Best said. “So we don’t even know how much trauma people were going through because of what was going on in that area.”
US Attorney General Bill Barr said the area of the CHOP had become a “haven for violent crime,” and praised the police chief ‘s work.
“As Chief Best has made clear throughout the process, there is a fundamental distinction between discussing substantive issues — including addressing many in the African-American community’s distrust of law enforcement — and violent law defiance,” he said in a statement.
The Seattle Transit Department (SDOT) had a team of 35-40 people removing traffic control, concrete barriers and changing the traffic pattern back to the original version Wednesday, said Sam Zimbabwe, the department’s head.
The SDOT is also collaborating with artists at CHOP to protect and take offsite artwork. The city does not own the artwork, but is seeking to find a way to conserve, protect and repurpose it, Zimbabwe said.
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