‘We’re sitting ducks in here’: Tenants in protest zone asking SPD to resume response to crimes

SEATTLE — Some residents who live within the “CHOP” (Capitol Hill Occupied Protest Zone) tell KIRO 7 they have an open question for Seattle police: “Who do we call or ask for help when burglars are breaking in and stealing our property?” asked Matthew Ploszaj, who has lived in a Pine Street apartment building near the East Precinct for eight years.

“We are now right in the middle of that autonomous zone,” he said.

Ploszaj said he recently called 911 when he saw a burglar breaking into his courtyard, grabbing a bike and other items.

“The dispatcher told me, ‘We are not going in there, there is nothing we can do. We can come meet you on the outside, but if it’s not life-threatening, there’s nothing we can do.’”

He said days later, he saw it happen again.

“I saw the same guy who had broken earlier,“” he said. “He was wearing different clothes, but he locked eyes on me, he saw me and started working toward me, so I ran inside, and called 911 again,” he said.

Once again, Ploszaj said his call to 911 was futile. Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said Monday her officers would only respond inside the protest zone for cases of life-safety emergencies, for the safety of SPD officers, and protesters calling for de-policing within the zone.

“We are just sitting ducks all day,” Ploszaj said. “Now every criminal in the city knows they can come into this area and they can do anything they want as long as it isn’t life-threatening, and the police won’t come in to do anything about it.”

Ploszaj said he has also seen protesters policing themselves.

“Someone had broken into the East Precinct, and other protesters were shouting at them, and they went in there,” he said. “They forcibly removed (the intruders). They got them out of there.”

Ploszaj said he and other Pine Street residents tried appealing to CHOP organizers, explaining that many are seniors.

“We try to bring up our points, but we just get shouted down,” he said. “We just get booed.”

On Tuesday morning, SDOT workers moved barricades and borders in the protest zone to accommodate traffic and emergency vehicles, while protecting protesters from incoming vehicles.

“The city has successfully worked with protesters onsite to reconfigure the CHOP to allow for public safety and better access for the local community,” said a release from Mayor Jenny Durkan. “It has involved rerouting traffic, freeing up alley access, opened streets, and replacing makeshift barriers with heavy concrete barriers that can be painted.”

“This change is going to open traffic back up to over 1,000 residents on 12th Street, and that’s really important to us. And it’s important to keep our protesters safe,” said a protester who says he helps provide security for CHOP. He asked to be identified as Cove.

Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins, who has been on scene at the protest nearly every day since Seattle police left the east precinct, was there again Tuesday.

He said some protesters were worried someone else would drive into the crowds there, so the Seattle Department of Transportation was removing plastic barricades and relocating some concrete ones, which would help provide safety.

The changes also improve access for emergency vehicles as well as deliveries for businesses, and for residents’ vehicles.

Cove said they are showing they are not an “autonomous zone” and can work with the city of Seattle. SDOT, Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle firefighters were all at the scene working Tuesday.

“We are not a right-wing or left-wing radical faction. We are members of the community and that’s it. I think being in sync with public utility and the fire chief is really going to go a long way to show that,” Cove said.