About a dozen businesses and residents located around Seattle’s autonomous protest zone have sued authorities who “abandoned” the area to protests.
The lawsuit, submitted on Wednesday, argued that businesses in and around the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) had been “overrun” since Seattle authorities took the “unprecedented decision to abandon and close” the area.
That withdrawal started some weeks ago when Seattle’s police department abandoned a precinct now positioned inside the CHAZ, also known by the acronym CHOP (Capital Hill Organised Protest), amid Black Lives Matter protests.
The lawsuit added on Wednesday that it did not want to undermine demonstrations seen since Minneapolis police killed George Floyd on 25 May.
“Rather, this lawsuit is about the constitutional and other legal rights of plaintiffs — businesses, employees, and residents in and around CHOP — which have been overrun”, said the lawsuit.
It added that the CHAZ had been “unchecked by the police, unserved by fire and emergency health services, and inaccessible to the public at large”.
The businesses also alleged that Seattle authorities “chose to actively endorse, enable and participate in the occupation” which has seen some businesses owners threatened and attacked.
One business included in the lawsuit — auto shop Car Tender — alleged that a protester broke into his shop on 14 June and attacked his son with a knife.
The lawsuit added that the business owners had detained the protester who attacked them, but Seattle police did not assist.
Mayor Jenny Durkan said on Monday that she wanted to take back the autonomous zone after three people were shot over the weekend.
“The cumulative impacts of the gatherings and protests and the night-time atmosphere and violence,” she said, “has led to increasingly difficult circumstances for our businesses and residents.”
The lawsuit on Wednesday demanded Ms Durkan sets-out a timeline for restoring public and private access across the CHAZ, which they dubbed a “perpetual block party”.