Seattle’s former left-wing Mayor Jenny Durkan considered transferring a Seattle Police Department building to Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County during the 2020 summer of violence and protests following George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis in May of that year, according to a report.
According to documents obtained by the Seattle Times, a draft bill to move SPD’s East Precinct operations out of the building where it was housed and hand it over to the BLM organization was emailed to Durkan by the director of the Seattle Department of Finance and Administrative Services on the same day that the building was stormed and taken over by demonstrators who then set up the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ).
“Mayor Durkan’s office directed FAS, in its capacity as the city’s real estate and facility management agency, to outline the process to transfer the East Precinct to BLM-Seattle-King County,” Melissa Mixon, a spokeswoman for FAS, told the Washington Examiner. “FAS did not, and does not, have knowledge as to what Mayor Durkan’s office intended to do with the East Precinct in June 2020.”
The Seattle Times reported:
That June, as cops lobbed tear gas from behind barricades, and protesters on the streets surrounding the precinct called for the Police Department to be defunded, Durkan’s office behind the scenes briefly contemplated handing over the multimillion dollar property that had become the focus of the demonstrations.
Calvin Goings, the director of the city’s Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS), emailed three memos and a draft resolution to Durkan on the afternoon of June 8, 2020 — at about the same time police were abandoning the East Precinct on Capitol Hill.
The draft resolution for transferring the property to Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County (BLMSKC) included a July 1 effective date, and Durkan’s office subsequently discussed the possibility with the nonprofit, which at one point pushed to remake the building as a hub for public health and community care.
“Good afternoon Mayor, Please see the attached documents as requested. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns,” Goings wrote during a week of one of the tensest periods in Seattle history between police and city residents.
While the period was impacting the entire city, the discussions about potentially transferring the property all occurred behind closed doors and in secret, cutting the public and reporters out completely, the Times reported. In fact, “text messages exchanged among a number of key decision makers, including Durkan and her police and fire chiefs, have gone missing,” the paper noted.
Eventually, the idea was dropped by Durkan, who announced December 2020 she wouldn’t seek reelection and has since been succeeded by current Democratic Mayor Bruce Harrell, and SPD reoccupied the property on July 1, 2020.
But according to the draft legislation that she was considering, the city would have transferred permanent “use of/ownership” of the East Precinct building to the BLM group on July 1, 2020, and as part of the deal, the city agreed to remove all law enforcement elements and materials and also agree to keep up the building’s maintenance.
“The East Precinct, located at 1519 12th Avenue, Seattle WA is located in the heart of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, a neighborhood known for its diversity and social activism,” the draft legislation said. “This precinct houses Seattle Police officers who patrol Seattle’s Central District neighborhood and has been seen as a symbol of police oppression in one of Seattle’s historically Black neighborhoods.”
The CHAZ, which was eventually renamed the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, or CHOP, was established on June 8 and was set up as a police-free zone. During its nearly three-week existence, there were several shootings, some of which involved fatalities.
In April 2021, the family of one of the victims, a 19-year-old who was shot and killed, filed a federal lawsuit against the city, alleging that by permitting the CHOP zone to exist without law enforcement, it “invited lawlessness and created foreseeable danger.”