A coalition of Seattle retailers, landlords and residents filed a lawsuit against the city Wednesday -- arguing that they’ve faced “extensive harm” as a result of an “occupied” protest zone.
Since June 8, scores of demonstrators have been stationed on several blocks around the Seattle Police Department’s East Prescient. Protesters have designated the area as the Capital Hill Organized Protest (CHOP). In the suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, the plaintiffs say that they support Black Lives Matter and understand the importance of fighting against racial injustice and police brutality. However, they allege that the city’s “decision to abandon and close off” their neighborhood has created financial hardship and challenges to daily life.
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“The property owners, businesses and residents in the area suffer ever-increasing property damage and economic loss every day that CHOP exists in their neighborhood, all because of the city’s active support, encouragement and endorsement of the occupation,” reads the filing, which says plaintiffs have faced hardships including loss of revenue, loss of property value, damages to property.
In particular, the lawsuit claims the city had aided CHOP demonstrators by giving them public restroom facilities, stronger barriers and medical supplies, and that the Seattle Police Department will not enter the area unless there is “life-threatening” crime. Additionally, businesses say that clients are unable to visit because of blocked-off access ways and that delivery services are either unable or unwilling to enter the zone. Some businesses also allege that they have been threatened while attempting to remove graffiti from their outposts.
While the city allowed the protests to continue for about two weeks, Mayor Jenny Durkan said this week that it was time for protestors to go home, following three shootings in the zone on consecutive nights. Durkan did not provide a specific date by which protestors would need to go home, although she said that demonstrators would first be asked to leave, with police to return to the area.
The plaintiffs are seeking damages for lost business, deprivation of property rights and property damage. They are also asking that full public access to the area be resumed.