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Demonstrators resist as crews arrive at Seattle protest zone

| June 26, 2020 4:32 PM

SEATTLE (AP) — Crews arrived with heavy equipment Friday at an occupied protest zone in Seattle, ready to dismantle barriers set up more than a week ago by demonstrators, but the work was halted when some protesters resisted by climbing atop the makeshift structures.

Stefanie Formas, a spokeswoman for Mayor Jenny Durkan, said the city’s goal is to improve access to the area for residents. She said city officials would discuss plans later in the day with protest organizers.

The collective of protesters, activists, educators and volunteers in the Capitol Hill Organized Protest was formed after clashes with police who tear-gassed people protesting the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Durkan has expressed support for the protest, calling it “a peaceful expression of our community’s collective grief and their desire to build a better world.”

But following several shootings in the area, Durkan said the city would wind down the protest zone, at first by encouraging demonstrators to leave. In addition, she said police would return to a nearby precinct that was abandoned following clashes with demonstrators.

The work crews intended to remove the barricades, not protesters, Sam Zimbabwe, city transportation director, told local journalist Omari Salisbury, who has been live-streaming the protest.

Workers were preserving artwork that had been painted on the wooden barricades, Zimbabwe said, adding that the department would work to return it to the people who created it.

“We’re not trying to have conflict,” Zimbabwe said.

A number of protesters remained camped in tents outside the East Precinct. The city has not given a timeline for officers’ return to the building except to say it would be in the near future.

Protesters have called for cutting the police budget 50% and spending the savings on community health and other programs. The mayor has proposed a vastly more modest cut of $20 million to help balance the city’s budget through the end of this year.

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Seattle Department of Transportation workers talk with protest organizers near the Seattle Police Department East Precinct building after SDOT arrived at the the CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupied Protest) zone in Seattle, Friday, June 26, 2020, with the intention of removing barricades that had been set up in the area. Several blocks in the area have been occupied by protesters since Seattle Police pulled back from their East Precinct building following violent clashes with demonstrators earlier in the month. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

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A person tries to take away a hammer from a man at left who was using it to remove artwork on barricades Friday, June 26, 2020 at the CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupied Protest) zone in Seattle. The man lives in a house in the same block and said he was tired of protesters occupying his neighborhood. Also on Friday Seattle Department of Transportation workers arrived with the intention of removing barricades that had been set up in the area, but left after being met with resistance from protesters. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

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A sign on a barricade reads "United we stand divided we fall," as a truck and other heavy equipment from the Seattle Department of Transportation is staged at the the CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupied Protest) zone in Seattle, Friday, June 26, 2020. Workers arrived with the intention of removing barricades that had been set up in the area and were met with opposition from protesters. Several blocks in the area have been occupied by protesters since Seattle Police pulled back from their East Precinct building following violent clashes with demonstrators earlier in the month. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

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A man speaking in to a bullhorn urges protesters not to be violent after workers and heavy equipment from the Seattle Department of Transportation arrived at the the CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupied Protest) zone in Seattle, Friday, June 26, 2020, with the intention of removing barricades that had been set up in the area. Several blocks in the area have been occupied by protesters since Seattle Police pulled back from their East Precinct building following violent clashes with demonstrators earlier in the month. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

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Seattle Department of Transportation workers walk and talk with protest organizers near the Seattle Police Department East Precinct building after SDOT arrived at the the CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupied Protest) zone in Seattle, Friday, June 26, 2020, with the intention of removing barricades that had been set up in the area. Several blocks in the area have been occupied by protesters since Seattle Police pulled back from their East Precinct building following violent clashes with demonstrators earlier in the month. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

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Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins, right, and Assistant Chief Willie Barrington, left, walk, Friday, June 26, 2020 inside the CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupied Protest) zone in Seattle. The officials were on hand to try and negotiate with protesters after workers and trucks from the Seattle Department of Transportation who had arrived with the intention of removing barricades were met with resistance. The area has been occupied by protesters since Seattle Police pulled back from their East Precinct building following violent clashes with demonstrators earlier in the month. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

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Seattle Fire Assistant Chief Willie Barrington, left, and Chief Harold Scoggins, second from left, walk with protest organizers, Friday, June 26, 2020 inside the CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupied Protest) zone in Seattle. The officials were on hand to try and negotiate with protesters after workers and trucks from the Seattle Department of Transportation who had arrived with the intention of removing barricades were met with resistance. The area has been occupied by protesters since Seattle Police pulled back from their East Precinct building following violent clashes with demonstrators earlier in the month. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

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A protester holds a sign that reads "We don't negotiate with terrorists," Friday, June 26, 2020 inside the the CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupied Protest) zone in Seattle after workers and trucks from the Seattle Department of Transportation arrived with the intention of removing barricades that had been set up in the area which has been occupied by protesters since Seattle Police pulled back from their East Precinct building following violent clashes with demonstrators earlier in the month. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)