Seattle Mayor Durkan: CHAZ Has A "Block Party Atmosphere," Could Turn Into "Summer Of Love" | Video | RealClearPolitics

Seattle Mayor Durkan: CHAZ Has A "Block Party Atmosphere," Could Turn Into "Summer Of Love"


Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan could not explain how long Seattle residents could expect the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" in downtown Seattle to exist and said it could turn into a "summer of love" in an interview Thursday night with CNN host Chris Cuomo.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Let's bring in the Mayor of Seattle now, going toe to toe with the President today. But let's deal with her own problems at home in her backyard first.

Jenny Durkan, welcome back, Ms. Mayor. It's good to have you.

MAYOR JENNY DURKAN, (D) SEATTLE, WASHINGTON: Good to see you, Chris. Glad you're back and healthy.

CUOMO: Thank you. Thank you for the good word.

So, I don't have to tell you about the situation on the ground in your City. But, in terms of how it looks, to the rest of the country, and the President, teeing it up as basically ineptitude, the ability - inability to control your own streets, is that fair criticism?

DURKAN: So, I know it will shock you that the President is perhaps not giving an accurate or truthful picture.

We've got four blocks in Seattle that you just saw pictures of that is more like a block party atmosphere. It's not an armed takeover. It's not a military junta. We will - we will make sure that we can restore this.

But we have block parties and the like in this part of Seattle all the time. It's known for that. So, I think the President - number one, there is no threat right now to the public. And we're looking - we're taking that very seriously. We're meeting with businesses and residents.

But what the President threatened is illegal and unconstitutional. And the fact that he can think he can just tweet that, and not have ramifications is just wrong.

CUOMO: The counter will be block parties don't take over a municipal building, let alone a police station, and destroy it, basically thumbing their nose at any sense of civic control.

Do you believe that you have control of your City and that you would be able to clear those streets because you haven't?

DURKAN: We do. And the Chief of Police was in that precinct today with her Command Staff looking and assessing on operational plans.

But we saw that it was a point of conflict night after night between the Police Department and protesters, and we wanted to de-escalate that.

And what we decided was the best way to do that was reopen the streets, and that itself ended up with some ramifications for the precinct, to remove anything that was valuable from out of that building.

But we will make sure that all of Seattle is safe where we take Public Safety seriously. But the description the President has given is not only wrong. But if it were right, his remedy is wrong. You don't dominate.

Remember why we're here. You know, we're here because the nation saw Mr. Floyd murdered, and that lit a match across this country. And we have to acknowledge and know that we have a system that is built on systemic racism, and we have to dismantle that system piece by piece.

We have to empower the Black community and communities of color and we have to invest in their health, and their safety, and their education, and opportunity.

CUOMO: Mayor, the other counter by the President, and many people on the Right, will be "Well of course, Durkan has a "D" after her name. She's going to be OK with this because these are her people.

These are these Left-wing anarchists and radicals, and they're letting them run free on the streets. You barely see any Black or African- American faces on those streets. This is about Lefty radicalism run amok in your City, and you seem OK with it."

DURKAN: So, Chris, as you know, I was the United States Attorney here in Seattle. And during that time, as United States Attorney, we investigated and prosecuted a whole range of bad actors, including militia groups, and drug cartels, anarchists and the like.

We are - we have our Public Safety approach in one way. And during this time, a number-one priority every American City has is to protect the First Amendment right.

Our country was born out of protest. The right to gather, the right to protest, the right to challenge government, when it's wrong, is our most fundamental constitutional right. It's a reason it's the First Amendment.

And, as a Mayor of the City, I will do everything to protect that right, and balance the Public Safety. I think not only can we do both, I think we have to do both.

CUOMO: And what is the response to the President's call to "Dominate with compassion?" He says solving your problem would be easy if you were strong and not weak.

Your response was "You want to help? Go back to the bunker." Tough words!

DURKAN: Look, we know the last time I spoke with you we're talking about the pandemic.

And I would yearn for just one positive thing the White House would give us, either on that public crisis, or the public crisis we're facing right now, on systemic racism.

We need a President engaged to bringing America together, to heal, and in the case of Coronavirus, to literally heal, to give me, as a Mayor, the testing capacity I need, the ability to have the drugs that can treat it, and when vaccines come to be fully safe and free for people. I want PPE for my nurses and firefighters.

Instead, I'm searching the globe for those things, so that we can have testing and treatment for people here in Seattle. So, I would say to the President that if you want to do good for America, start doing good for America. We need you in that fight.

We need a - we can harness the beautiful innovation of American manufacturing, and workers, to build a system that actually produce enough testing, so that we can control this virus.

We know we're going to see an uptick in it. This President's not in the fight. Instead, he just wants to start a fight.

CUOMO: Well look, what's happening on your streets isn't going to be helpful to the caseload either. You know that.

We do see people with masks. But obviously, the big risk is as we move back out into public, and reopen, having people in tight spaces like this can't be helpful. It's outside. That's one mitigating factor. But you know there's risk.

I want to just get a clear sense of this though, Mayor.

Why do you believe the President chose to talk about domination in the face of what's happening, not just in your City, but in many instances, when it comes to what the remedy is for the unrest in the country right now? What do you think this is about for him?

DURKAN: I think it shows a complete lack of understanding and why people are in the street. They're in the street fighting a system of domination. And he doesn't understand that.

And his response is always one that's bellicose and militaristic. But he doesn't honor the military in that way either, as you've seen from the line of Generals that have disputed him.

So, I think he says "Dominate" because he is totally does not understand what is happening in America, and he is desperately trying to start the old fights and the old divisions that put him in power in the first place.

CUOMO: How long do you think Seattle in those few blocks looks like this?

DURKAN: I don't know. We could have the Summer of Love.

CUOMO: Well tell that to the Police who was supposed to be in that precinct though. But I understand your sentiment, Mayor. I wish you well. We'll stay on the story. You'll always have this platform to talk about it.

DURKAN: Hey Chris, the police will be - be policing in there. I want to be very clear on that. Our Chief of Police was in there assessing today.

We take Public Safety very seriously. We met with businesses and residents today. We don't have to sacrifice Public Safety for First Amendment rights. Both can exist, and we'll make sure that both exist in Seattle.

CUOMO: We'll be watching to see how it unfolds. The best to you, good to see you, thank you for being on the show.

DURKAN: Thank you, Chris. Take care.
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