Shooting in Seattle raises worries about safety in the protesters’ ‘autonomous zone.’
The protester-run district in Seattle known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone or the Capitol Hill Organized Protest area has been celebrated as a “no cop” zone where the community takes care of public safety. Since the city made the unusual decision last month to abandon a police station in the neighborhood, the police have largely stayed out to avoid clashing with the protesters, to the point of asking people who call for assistance, in all but the most serious situations, to meet them at the edge of the zone.
But the viability of that approach came into question after an eruption of gunfire inside the zone early Saturday, when one person died and another was critically injured.
Fire Department medics responding to the shooting stopped a block away, saying they needed to wait until the police declared the scene to be safe for them to enter. By the time the police tried to move in and do that, it appears that some 20 minutes had passed. Protesters expressed anger that the officers were there even though the first shooting victim had already been taken away by volunteer medics, who expressed frustration at the delay in getting aid.
A Seattle Police Department statement said that detectives were investigating the shooting “despite the challenges presented by the circumstances.” The police said that the suspect or suspects in the shooting had fled, and that the motive was unknown.
“Officers attempted to locate a shooting victim but were met by a violent crowd that prevented officers’ safe access to the victims,” the police statement said.
The city has been working to alter barricades surrounding in the zone to give access to emergency personnel access. But John Moore, 23, one of the volunteer medics on the scene early Saturday, said the Fire Department would not come in.
Instead, Mr. Moore said, the group planned to meet the Fire Department at a previously designated intersection outside of the zone. But after getting the wounded person in a truck while continuing CPR, the group arrived at the intersection to find nobody waiting there. So they continued to a hospital.
Videos posted on social media by Converge Media showed the volunteer medics racing through crowds of onlookers in the pre-dawn darkness. Tensions were high as some protesters appeared to object to the arrival of the police.
As armed officers in riot gear entered the zone, people screamed, “The victim left the premises!” At one point, protesters briefly surrounded a police car and then yelled, as the vehicle sped away, “Whose streets? Our streets!”
Gov. Jay Inslee said on Saturday that he was saddened to hear of a shooting and was still gathering information about what had occurred. But he said it was clear that the government needed to be able to provide protection for all citizens, including in that zone, and that “other options” might need to be explored.
“We have to have a way to provide police services and fire services in that area,” Mr. Inslee said.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, whose city has been rocked by the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man, Rayshard Brooks, said on Sunday that at least nine officers had resigned from the police force in the past week.
“Our communities are hurting and our officers are hurting,” Ms. Bottoms said in an interview on the CNN program “State of the Union.” “So in the same way our demonstrators need an opportunity to vent and to express their frustration and their concern, understand that our officers need the opportunity to do that as well.”
The officer who shot Mr. Brooks was swiftly fired and now faces criminal charges including murder. The other officer at the scene has been put on administrative leave and also faces some charges. The city’s police chief resigned the day after the shooting.
Police union officials and others have complained about what they called a rush to judgment in the case, and unusually large numbers of officers have been calling in sick or have otherwise been absent from work since the charges were announced.
The interim chief of the department, Rodney Bryant, told reporters on Saturday that “the explanation for calling out sick vary, and include officers questioning their training, officers being challenged and attacked, and unease about officers seeing their colleagues criminally charged so quickly,” according to Fox 5 Atlanta.
Ms. Bottoms said on Sunday that she was focused now on training police officers in de-escalation techniques to prevent any repeat of the deadly encounter with Mr. Brooks.
She expressed frustration that President Trump did not say anything substantive at his campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., Saturday about the weeks of protests against police brutality and systemic racism around the country, including those in Atlanta following the killing of Mr. Brooks.
“It was absolutely what the nation does not need right now,” she said of Mr. Trump’s speech. “He did not speak about healing. He did not recognize any of the racial tensions that are happening.”
Some businesses are committing to concrete changes after George Floyd’s killing.
Companies are usually quiet at moments of public upheaval, and hesitant to take a political stand for fear of alienating customers. But since the death of Mr. Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis late last month, businesses of all kinds have expressed their solidarity with protesters, donated millions of dollars to organizations dedicated to racial justice or vowed to change their office cultures to be more inclusive.
Some, though, have gone beyond those steps, announcing intentions to make concrete changes inside their own institutions or in how they do business.
Senate Republicans’ plan would use federal funding to encourage policing changes.
Senator Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, said on Sunday that his party’s police reform bill will focus on leveraging federal money to push police departments to change.
“It is important for us to use the resources that we provide to law enforcement to compel them toward the direction that we think is in the best interest of the nation,” he said on the ABC program “This Week.”
Departments that do not institute the changes called for in the bill would not receive as much federal grant money, he said.
But he added that more money, not less, was needed to fulfill the bill’s goals.
“We believe that you actually need more resources, not less resources,” he said. “If you want officers to be trained effectively, you have to give them the tools, called training. If you want more information on the federal level, that requires more resources for record keeping and for data collection.”
The bill, led by Mr. Scott, calls for more departments to submit information about their officers, like complaints against them, to a federal database.
“There’s a lot of accountability,” he said. “The only way to get to that root of the problem is to have as much information collected by the F.B.I. Today, only about 40 percent of offices actually report their information. For us to see the patterns in law enforcement that may be problematic, we need all the information.”
Reporting was contributed by Mike Baker, Melina Delkic, Manny Fernandez, Gillian Friedman and Rebecca Halleck.