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Barr Praises Seattle Police Chief for Re-Taking ‘Autonomous Zone,’ Completely Ignores Mayor Who Issued the Order


WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 15: U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaks during a roundtable on “Fighting for America’s Seniors” at the Cabinet Room of the White House June 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump participated in the roundtable to discuss the administration’s efforts to “safeguard America's senior citizens from COVID-19.

Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday spoke glowingly of Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best for taking action against protests in the city’s so-called Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) or Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP). However, in a lengthy statement extolling the return of the “rule of law,” Barr completely ignored the city’s mayor, who ordered police to retake the area in the first place via a legal executive order.

“I commend Police Chief Carmen Best for her courage and leadership in restoring the rule of law in Seattle,” Barr said. “For the past several weeks, the Capitol Hill area of Seattle was occupied by protesters who denied access to police and other law enforcement personnel. Unsurprisingly, the area became a haven for violent crime, including shootings that claimed the lives of two young people, assaults, and robberies.”

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best addresses the press as city crews dismantle the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) area outside of the Seattle Police Department's vacated East Precinct on July 1, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. Police reported making at least 31 arrests while clearing the CHOP area this morning.

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best speaks as crews dismantled the Capitol Hill Organized Protest.    (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Barr’s comments endorsing the police action did not name, mention, or even reference Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, a Democrat, who issued an emergency order declaring the protests an “unlawful assembly.” It was that order which resulted in the police action to shut down the “autonomous zone.”

The mayor’s order acknowledged that “the killing of George Floyd” in Minneapolis “generated anger and outrage,” supported “the people’s right to lawful assembly,” and said the city “was unable to issue a parade and/or demonstration permits” due to the coronavirus pandemic. Thus, the mayor noted, the occupation of the Capitol Hill area in Seattle was allowed to occur, but ultimately needed to end.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan listens to Ezraniah Reed (L) and Ramisi Gomes, whose friend Iosia "Slim" Faletogo, 36, was killed by Seattle Police in 2018, about the need for police reform and accountability while back stage at the "The Next Steps" rally in Seattle, Washington on June 19, 2020. - The US marks the end of slavery by celebrating Juneteenth, with the annual unofficial holiday taking on renewed significance as millions of Americans confront the nation's living legacy of racial injustice. (Photo by Jason Redmond / AFP)

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan speaks at a Juneteenth gathering.  (Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)

“[S]ome disruption is part of the rights of free speech and lawful assembly which the City will safeguard,” the mayor said in the order. “[M]uch of the expression has been peaceful and created community solidarity for Black Lives Matter, including features such as a community garden, public art, and conversation corner.”

The mayor said it was time to act after the city also acknowledged more than a page of single-spaced, bullet-pointed examples of incidents “where public health, life, and safety [we]re threatened.” But her tone in the order and on social media stressed reconciliation.

Barr ignored the mayor and the mayor’s order in his statement.

Barr said Chief Best was correct to highlight the distinction between “distrust of law enforcement by many in the African-American community” and “violent defiance of the law.”

Seattle Police arrest a demonstrator who was blocking the intersection of East Pine Street and 11th Avenue after police cleared the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) and retook the department's East Precinct in Seattle, Washington on July 1, 2020. (Photo by Jason Redmond / AFP)

Seattle police arrest a protester while clearing the so-called Capitol Hill Occupied Protest.    (Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)

“The people of Seattle should be grateful to Chief Best and her Department for their professional and steadfast defense of the rule of law,” Barr went on to say.  “The message of today’s action is simple but significant:  the Constitution protects the right to speak and assemble freely, but it provides no right to commit violence or defy the law, and such conduct has no place in a free society governed by law.”

President Donald Trump repeatedly characterized the mayor as a weak and clueless “Liberal” who allowed “ugly Anarchists” to take over, burn and pillage the city of Seattle. He threatened federal intervention.

“Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will,” Trump said. “This is not a game.”

However, it ultimately was the mayor, not the Trump Administration, which moved to end the “autonomous zone” occupation.

READ the mayor’s executive order below:

Seattle Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) Executive Order by Law&Crime on Scribd

[photo of Barr by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.