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Seattle Business Owners File Class Action Suit Against City Over Allowance of “Occupied” Zone

Seattle Business Owners File Class Action Suit Against City Over Allowance of “Occupied” Zone

“…this lawsuit is about the constitutional and other legal rights of plaintiffs — businesses, employees, and residents in and around CHOP — which have been overrun by the city of Seattle’s unprecedented decision to abandon and close off an entire city neighborhood, leaving it unchecked by the police, unserved by fire and emergency health services, and inaccessible to the public at large.”

A handful of small business owners have filed suit against the city of Seattle for the allowance of the rioter occupied zone, which they claim has deprived them of their property rights, saying, “the City’s decision has subjected businesses, employees, and residents of that neighborhood to extensive property damage, public safety dangers, and an inability to use and access their properties.”

The complaint refers to CHAZ as CHOP (“Capitol Hill Occupied Protest”).

The plaintiffs allege that city officials actively endorsed, “enable, and participate in the occupation of CHOP.” From the complaint embedded beneath):

On June 8, 2020, the City of Seattle (“the City”) abruptly deserted the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct on the corner of Twelfth Avenue and E. Pine Street in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, leaving behind numerous barriers that had previously been used as a line between police and protesters.

4. When the City abandoned the precinct and the nearby barriers, a number of individuals who had been in the area took control of the barriers and used them to block off streets in an area around the East Precinct.

5. In the days and weeks after the City abandoned the East Precinct, CHOP participants have occupied the public streets, sidewalks, and parks in the area at all hours of the day and night. Rather than seeking to restore order and protect the residents and property owners within CHOP, the City instead chose to actively endorse, enable, and participate in the occupation
of CHOP.

6. The City has provided Cal Anderson Park, a public park located at the center of CHOP, to CHOP for use as the staging ground supporting CHOP’s occupation of the surrounding area. Supported by the City, countless CHOP participants now reside in the park at all times of day and night, having turned it into a tent city. At any given time, hundreds of CHOP participants are camped out in the park. Violence, vandalism, excessive noise, public drug use, and other crimes are rampant within the park.

7. The City’s conduct has resulted in CHOP being blocked off from public access. Among other conduct detailed below, the City recently provided the participants with concrete barriers to use to block the streets, which CHOP participants have indeed used to barricade the streets and create borders. These borders have, at times, been guarded by armed CHOP participants who oversee who can or cannot enter CHOP. As a result, the streets are barred to most all vehicular traffic, making it virtually impossible for residents and businesses to access their buildings, receive deliveries, and provide goods and services to the few customers willing to enter CHOP.

From the Associated Press:

A collection of Seattle businesses, property owners and residents sued the city Wednesday over its tolerance of an “occupied” protest zone, saying officials have been complicit in depriving them of their rights to their property.

The plaintiffs — including a tattoo parlor, auto repair shop and property management firm — emphasized in the lawsuit that they were not trying to undermine the anti-police-brutality or Black Lives Matter messaging of the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest.”

“Rather, this lawsuit is about the constitutional and other legal rights of plaintiffs — businesses, employees, and residents in and around CHOP — which have been overrun by the city of Seattle’s unprecedented decision to abandon and close off an entire city neighborhood, leaving it unchecked by the police, unserved by fire and emergency health services, and inaccessible to the public at large,” the lawsuit said.

The Seattle City Attorney’s Office said it had not yet seen the lawsuit but would review it.

The “occupation” began June 8 when the Seattle Police Department, following days of intense clashes with demonstrators in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police, abandoned its East Precinct building in the densely populated Capitol Hill neighborhood. Protesters moved police barricades to block traffic, and scores camped in a nearby park.

The protest has drawn the scorn of President Donald Trump, who asserted it was being run by anarchists.

…Mayor Jenny 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,” and the city has helped it by providing different barricades to better protect participants from vehicles.

But following three shootings in the area on consecutive nights beginning last weekend, Durkan said this week the city would wind down the protest zone, at first by encouraging demonstrators to leave voluntarily, and that police would return to the precinct. But neither she nor Police Chief Carmen Best gave a specific timeline for when that would happen.

Complaint here:

Chop Complaint by Legal Insurrection on Scribd


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OwenKellogg-Engineer | June 25, 2020 at 5:36 pm

Finally, a return salvo of Lawfare.

    healthguyfsu in reply to OwenKellogg-Engineer. | June 25, 2020 at 5:55 pm

    I’m not so optimistic…even assuming they actually win, it just means the government shelling out more money to pay for something, not the people at fault who deserve to be in jail paying it off for the rest of their miserable lives.

      notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to healthguyfsu. | June 25, 2020 at 6:28 pm

      Yes but it is a start.

      They need to include in the suit how it was the Democrat city mayor and Democrat Gov who alloWed this and are liable too.

      How I hope those Dems get their CHOP CHOP.

I don’t know if this lawsuit has any legal basis (can a municipality be sued for failing to protect private property or arresting criminals?). But the chances of a judge doing something that makes Democrats look bad are kind of remote. #OrangeManBad, you know.

    Well, could you they bring a fourteen amendment claim? “No State shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Seattle is officially not enforcing its laws in the “autonomous” zone.

    If it were mere failure to act then they might or might not have a case. An individual plaintiff definitely wouldn’t, but here it’s a class representing the entire affected population, so maybe they would. But here it’s not just that the city failed in its duty to act, it’s that the city actively colluded and participated in the illegal acts and thus shares liability for the damage caused.

    LeftWingLock in reply to Recovering Lutheran. | June 25, 2020 at 8:22 pm

    If the police don’t have a duty to protect a citizen (Castle Rock v. Gonzales), then I think it likely the courts will find that a city has no duty to protect its citizens.

      Milhouse in reply to LeftWingLock. | June 26, 2020 at 12:42 am

      It doesn’t follow. The doctrine as so far expressed by the courts is that the police’s duty is not to protect any individual but to protect the whole community, and that means they can decide that the greater good of protecting the whole community demands tolerating this specific crime and sacrificing the safety of this specific individual. But where they’re sacrificing the whole community, whom exactly are they protecting?

Kinda feel badly for these people (though only a smidgen since they’re voters and they brought this government on themselves), but they’re about to learn some hard lessons. First one they’ll encounter is qualified immunity. They won’t be able to hold any of these persons, mayor, city counselors, police, personally liable/responsible for any of the acts they did in setting in motion the disastrous train of events.

And whether they’ll be able to hold the government as a body responsible is also doubtful because of general governmental immunity. Government can be sued but only to the extent it has given consent by statute. So I assume WA has some kind of counterpart to the Federal Torts Claim Act, but these plaintiffs will learn of the ways local governments can wiggle out of those laws.

Excerpt from

The US Supreme Court has made it clear that law enforcement agencies are not required to provide protection to the citizens who are forced to pay the police for their “services.”

In the cases DeShaney vs. Winnebago and Town of Castle Rock vs. Gonzales, the supreme court has ruled that police agencies are not obligated to provide protection of citizens. In other words, police are well within their rights to pick and choose when to intervene to protect the lives and property of others — even when a threat is apparent.

In both of these court cases, clear and repeated threats were made against the safety of children — but government agencies chose to take no action.

A consideration of these facts does not necessarily lead us to the conclusion that law enforcement agencies are somehow on the hook for every violent act committed by private citizens.

    Jefferson Alexander in reply to fscarn. | June 25, 2020 at 5:48 pm

    All you say is true, but the law can be made to say anything we want it to these days. Precedent means nothing to the other side and if we defeat ourselves right out of the gate, we’ll never turn things around. They’ll just keep bludgeoning us with duplicitous, hypocritical rulings that twist the law books into pretzels for whatever outcome they want.

    Instead, let’s start using their tactics. All it takes is one of these cases to win on just one legal theory and others will follow. Let’s forum shop for the right judges (if not available at the trial level, then aim for the appellate courts assuming we will lose at trial). They’re becoming more radical every week and we can no longer afford to “law school” it to death as we conservatives love to do.

    We need to be bold, daring, and make arguments that go against whatever precedent the law books says is against us. That’s what lawyers do. If we don’t, if we just rely on old precedent without finding ways around it, we’re giving them half the victory already.

    We need radical lawyers just like the ones they have.

    Barry in reply to fscarn. | June 25, 2020 at 8:54 pm

    “First one they’ll encounter is qualified immunity.”

    “Qualified immunity” only protects those covered if the violations are accidental. Purposeful violations do not get protection. This is why it is “qualified”.

    This is a case of first impression. The line of cases involving duty to protect are distinguishable from a case where the state created the harm, and affirmatively violated civil rights of the class, and proximately caused economic damages and the diminution of property and business values.

    Bruce Hayden in reply to fscarn. | June 26, 2020 at 12:33 am

    My reading of the complaint is that they pled around these impediments. The city might have still been safely out of trouble if they hadn’t facilitated the takeover and the occupation. But they did. They gave the occupiers barriers, toilets, medical supplies. The barriers are esp egregious, because they facilitate denying the legitimate owners and lessees of the businesses and homes in the area adequate access to their property. I see that as both a Taking and a deprivation of Due Process.

Jefferson Alexander | June 25, 2020 at 5:39 pm

I hope they win on at least some of their claims. In my younger days, I’d point out that suing the city (or any local government) for non-enforcement of the laws was doomed to failure. See 90 A.L.R. 5th 273 (Liability of Municipality or Other Governmental Unit for Failure to Provide Police Protection From Crime).

But they are basing their claims on a broader foundation of legal theories. More importantly, all bets are off these days when it comes to the law. Leftist judges are just SJWs in black dresses who should be running blogs rather than disgracing the bench and ignoring their oaths.

If they can change bathrooms, we can change anything. Our side needs to start pushing legal theories that might not have worked in the past. All it takes is one of these to succeed and all the other cities where businesses suffered will pile on to ride the legal reasoning.

JusticeDelivered | June 25, 2020 at 5:46 pm

An unfortunate reality is that both individuals and businesses are likely to be screwed on both legals and insurance fronts. How many will go bankrupt?

“The plaintiffs — including a tattoo parlor, auto repair shop and property management firm — emphasized in the lawsuit that they were not trying to undermine the anti-police-brutality or Black Lives Matter messaging of the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest.””

What they “emphasized” has no business being a part of their lawsuit and is just more virtue signaling. Most likely, they voted for all this. I’m all out of sympathy for the people that have elected rats to run their city and now complain the city is overrun by rats.

Racists. All of them are racists. (sarc.)

What has gone on in Seattle (and much of the rest of the country) the last two months is nothing short of disgusting. To think that law abiding citizens and business owners were basically held hostage by armed anarchists while the mayor and police department sat back and allowed it to happen is almost beyond belief. Are these weak leaders so worried about getting votes that they would sacrifice all law and order as to not offend the criminals creating these crimes? Apparently so.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more disappointed and disgusted in our country. These were not African Americans committing all these crimes, these were terrorists and criminals of all races and skin colors. To the people defending these criminals as “protestors” give the rest of us a break — protesting doesn’t involve burning down buildings, looting, vandalizing peoples’ homes and cars, and murdering policemen. Protesting is violent, and protesting doesn’t break the law.

Every one of these weak-minded politicians who allowed this to happen should be voted out of office in November or at the first available opportunity. These politicians clearly don’t care out the citizens they represent, the laws of this country, or the Constitution. All they care about is votes and winning the next election, and any of you business owners and/or law abiding citizens complaining about the “protesters” are not the constituents they care about.

The plaintiffs . . . emphasized in the lawsuit that they were not trying to undermine . . . Black Lives Matter messaging . . .

Jeeze, water it down any more and it will just collapse and run down the gutter all on its own.

John Sullivan | June 26, 2020 at 10:45 am

Probably not a great idea to list a hedge fund as the first named plaintiff. They should have gone with one of the merchants as lead.

Good for those businessmen. But what about Seattle’s. big businesses–Boeing, Amazon, etc
all they have to tell the governor and mayor that they will end their presence in Seattle unless
law and order is returned, then you will get action. What we are seeing is that these corporate giants that are the ultimate target of the leftist scum are. totally without backbone–too stupid and cowardly even to protect their own interests. And what about that blowhard Trump–he explicitly warned the governor and mayor that if they did not against against antifa, he would do so himself. But he has done nothing. In short, he is simply another loudmouth phone.
The great mass of Americans are desperate for real leadership. He has failed–has proved himself a total phony. I have warned the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee that unless Trump takes action, I will abstain from voting in November. Everyone who is interested in saving the country should do the same–you can find her name and email on google,

I believe case law (precedent) is only as good as the lawyer who wields it and the judge who hears it.