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Police clear Seattle's CHOP protest zone, at least 32 arrested

July 1 (UPI) -- Police in Seattle were deployed to clear the city's protest zone early Wednesday, following an executive order from Mayor Jenny Durkan calling for protesters to vacate the area.

Durkan signed the executive order on Tuesday night and police began issuing dispersal orders for "anyone who remains in the area or returns to the area," arresting 32 people, the Seattle Police Department wrote on Twitter.

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At least 100 police officers equipped with body armor, batons, helmets and weapons entered the area known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, or CHOP, as protesters left the area.

Police said that anyone seeking to leave the area without being arrested could exit through the south end of the zone.

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Protesters had barricaded several blocks near Capitol Hill and occupied the area previously known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ, for weeks after police abandoned their nearby East Precinct amid global protests against police brutality and racial injustice sparked by the police-involved killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

The demonstrations in the area had largely been peaceful but Durkan last week announced plans to clear protesters from the area following at least two fatal shootings in the CHOP in recent weeks.

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Police Chief Carmen Best said she supports peaceful protests but on Wednesday declared that "enough is enough."

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"The CHOP has become lawless and brutal," she said.

President Donald Trump has condemned the protesters, referring to them as "domestic terrorists," and Attorney General William Barr praised Best and the police department for clearing the area.

"The message of today's action is simple but significant: The Constitution protects the right to speak and assemble freely, but it provides no right to commit violence or defy the law," Barr said.

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