US protests: demonstrators cleared from Seattle ‘occupied’ zone
US Department of Homeland Security to protect historic landmarks
Seattle police turned out in force early on Wednesday at the city’s “occupied” protest zone, tore down protesters’ camps and used bicycles to herd the protesters after two fatal shootings in less than two weeks.
Police, many in riot gear, swept into the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone that was set up near downtown after police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Wearing helmets and wielding batons and rifles, officers converged on the area at dawn.
They stood shoulder to shoulder on several streets while others created a makeshift fence with their bicycles, using it to push protesters back away from the centre of the zone.
As residents of the neighbourhood near the city’s downtown watched from balconies, police cleared out the protesters’ tents from a park in the zone and made sure no one was left in the bathrooms.
At one point, a loud bang was heard in the park, followed by a cloud of smoke.
One man dressed in black was peacefully led away in handcuffs and other demonstrators sat on the ground until their small group was handcuffed and detained.
Police Chief Carmen Best said there were at least 23 arrests.
Heavy equipment was then brought in to remove the concrete barriers demonstrators had erected to block roads.
President Donald Trump criticised New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to paint a Black Lives Matter mural on the street outside Trump Tower, saying it would antagonise police and be “denigrating this luxury avenue".
“Maybe our great police, who have been neutralised and scorned by a mayor who hates and disrespects them, won’t let this symbol of hate be affixed to New York’s greatest street,” Mr Trump said in a tweet on Wednesday.
“Spend this money fighting crime instead.”
In recent days, the president tweeted a video of an armed white couple confronting protesters in St. Louis, and another – later deleted – of his supporters chanting “white power” at opponents in a retirement community in Florida.
He said Confederate monuments should not be removed because such actions are a slippery slope that could damage understanding of the nation’s heritage.
The federal agency created to improve the nation’s response to terrorism announced on Wednesday that it would also be protecting statues and monuments.
Acting US Department of Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf said the agency established a task force to protect historic landmarks against vandalism and destruction from “violent anarchists and rioters” around the nation.
Mr Wolf said personnel would be posted over the July 4 weekend in the event of any civil unrest.
“We want to make sure that our facilities are protected, the statues and monuments on those facilities are protected and of course the people that work in those buildings are protected as well,” he told Fox & Friends.
The task force was ordered by Mr Trump, who on Friday directed federal authorities to protect monuments after protesters tried to pull down a statue of former president Andrew Jackson near the White House.
Updated: July 2, 2020 03:19 AM