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Police clear out Seattle’s protest zone following mayor’s order

Police showed up in force early Wednesday at Seattle’s “occupied” protest zone, tearing down demonstrators’ tents and using bicycles to herd protesters so that officers could carry out an executive order from Mayor Jenny Durken to vacate the area.

Television images showed no immediate signs of clashes between the police, many dressed in riot gear, and dozens of protesters at the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone that was set up near downtown following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Police moved into the zone about 5 a.m. A loud bang was heard about 6:15 a.m., followed by the appearance of a cloud of smoke. At least 23 people were arrested, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said.

Most of the protesters appeared to have dispersed several hours after the police clear-out began. Armed officers looked on from rooftops as cleanup crews arrived to break down tables and tarps that protesters had set up in the zone.

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People had occupied an area encompassing several blocks around a park and the Police Department’s East Precinct station 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.

Police said the move Wednesday was designed to protect the public. Protesters in the Capitol Hill neighborhood responded with chants and calls to leave them alone.

Malcolm Procter, a street artist, paints on a grand scale among acres of plywood covering storefronts in Seattle.

“Since demonstrations at the East Precinct area began on June 8, two teenagers have been killed and three people have been seriously wounded in late-night shootings,” Seattle police said on Twitter. “Police have also documented robberies, assaults and other violent crimes.

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“Because suspects in recent shootings may still be in the area, and because numerous people in the area are in possession of firearms,” they said they would move in.

Officers were equipped with additional protective gear as they began to clear the streets.

Barricades that remained in front of the police station Tuesday were fortified by protesters with chunks of concrete and tarps.

Fox News has removed digitally altered photos from its website after the Seattle Times on Friday noted the misleading images used by the network.

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There have been increasing calls by critics, including President Trump, to remove protesters from the 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.

Best said in a statement that she supports peaceful demonstrations, but that “enough is enough.”

The protest zone “has become lawless and brutal,” she said. “Four shootings — two fatal — robberies, assaults, violence and countless property crimes have occurred in this several-block area.”

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