SEATTLE - Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an emergency order Wednesday morning directing protesters to leave the area of the CHOP, Capitol Hill Organized Protest, and Cal Anderson Park area. More than 30 protesters were arrested, police said.
Officers in riot gear moved into the area at 5:00 a.m. and issued a dispersal order over the loudspeaker.
Police said on Twitter at 9:25 a.m. that at least 31 people were arrested for failure to disperse, obstruction, resisting arrest, and assault.
"One of the arrestees, a 29-year-old man, was in possession of a large metal pipe and kitchen knife when he was taken into custody," police said.
Police also tore down fences that protesters had erected around their tents and used batons to poke inside bushes, apparently looking for people who might be hiding inside.
Officers were also investigating several vehicles circling the area as police moved in after police saw people inside them “with firearms/armor,” police said in a tweet, adding that the vehicles did not appear to have “visible license plates.”
The protesters have occupied several blocks around a park for about three weeks and police had abandoned a precinct station following standoffs and clashes with the protesters, who called for racial justice and an end to police brutality.
"Due to ongoing violence and public safety issues in the East Precinct/Cal Anderson Park area," police said. "Mayor Jenny Durkan has issued an executive order to vacate the area. Seattle police will be in the area this morning enforcing the Mayor’s order."
"Since demonstrations at the East Precinct area began on June 8th, two teenagers have been killed and three people have been seriously wounded in late-night shootings. Police have also documented robberies, assaults, and other violent crimes," police wrote on Twitter.
"Because suspects in recent shootings may still be in the area, and because numerous people in the area are in possession of firearms, Seattle Police officers involved in this morning’s response will be equipped with additional protective gear."
Seattle city crews used heavy equipment Tuesday to remove makeshift barriers around the city’s “occupied” protest zone following two fatal shootings in the area.
Demonstrators dragged couches and other items to replace the structures. But those were largely gone later Tuesday.
People have occupied several blocks around a park and the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct for about two weeks after police abandoned the building following standoffs and clashes with protesters calling for racial justice and an end to police brutality.
Seattle police Assistant Chief Adrian Diaz said the large, makeshift barriers would be removed in incremental steps to allow traffic to move through portions of a road that had been closed off.
“So far, you know, everything is peaceful this morning, so that’s a good sign,” Diaz told The Seattle Times.
Cement barricades that remained in front of the Seattle Police Department East Precinct building Tuesday were fortified by protesters with chunks of concrete and tarps.
There had been increasing calls by critics, including President Donald Trump, to remove protesters from the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” area east of downtown following the fatal shooting Monday of a 16-year-old boy and the June 20 killing of a 19-year-old man.
Protesters say they should not be blamed for the violence in the area. People continued to add artwork, flowers and candles at a memorial for the 16-year-old on Tuesday.
Police Chief Carmen Best has said the shootings are obscuring the message of racial justice promoted by protesters.
"As I have said, and I will say again, I support peaceful demonstrations," Best said in a statement posted on Twitter Wednesday morning. "Black Lives Matter, and I too want to help propel this movement toward meaningful change in our community. But enough is enough."
Nearby businesses and property owners filed a federal lawsuit against the city last week, saying officials have been too tolerant of those who created the zone and that officials have deprived property owners of their property rights by allowing the zone to continue existing.
Also Tuesday, Mayor Jenny Durkan asked the City Council to investigate council member Kshama Sawant, accusing her of opening City Hall to protesters on June 9 and participating in a protest march to Durkan’s home on Sunday.
“She and organizers knew that my address was protected under the state confidentiality program because of threats against me due largely to my work as U.S. attorney,” Durkan wrote.
Sawant said she had not organized the march and wasn’t taking Durkan’s words personally, The Seattle Times reported.
“In reality, this is an attack on working people’s movements, and everything we are fighting for, by a corporate politician desperately looking to distract from her failures of leadership and politically bankrupt administration,” Sawant said in a statement.
Earlier this month Sawant and other council members called on the mayor to resign over what they called the Police Department’s militaristic response to protests. Durkan has said she will not resign.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.