Business and Residents Sue Seattle for the CHOP Zone
The protests in Seattle in the wake of the death of George Floyd have drawn nationwide attention. Protestors in the city have seized control of a several-block area in the city as police have left the area and ceded control. The protestors have named the area CHOP, short for Capitol Hill Organized Protests. However, the lack of police presence has turned the area into a no-go zone for anyone other than a protestor. This presents a problem for businesses in the area that have been forced to close. Residents in the area also claim that they have difficulty accessing their buildings and are afraid to do so without a police presence. They have now filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle for their failure to retake the area and seize control of CHOP.
Several weeks into the protests, the Seattle Police abandoned their station in the area under pressure from rising protests. Activity in the area has largely been peaceful except for a recent shooting in the area which left one dead and two wounded. However, many have been afraid to venture into the area. Businesses have feared opening, lest they make themselves a target for any type of property destruction. As a result, they have suffered large losses during an already difficult economic time. Businesses that have remained open have alleged that their drivers have had difficulty accessing the businesses to make pickups and deliveries. Some businesses in the area claim that they will permanently lose customers since their lack of access to their business keeps them from supplying their customers.
The Class Action Accuses the City of Being Responsible for Losses
These businesses have banded together to file a class-action lawsuit against the city. Until now, the Mayor of Seattle has indicated that she will continue to give protestors the space that they need to express their views. The Mayor has expressed reticence to clear the area despite public pressure from President Trump. However, in recent days, the city has begun to make efforts to work with the protestors to wind down their protest. However, it looks to be weeks instead of days before CHOP is free of protestors.
The lawsuit accuses the city of actively aiding the protestors. The plaintiffs argue that Seattle is encouraging the protestors by providing them with barriers, restroom facilities and medical supplies.
The Seattle Lawsuit's Charges Against the City
The lawsuit claims that the city's actions have deprived the plaintiffs of their procedural due process. The claim is that these individuals and businesses have lost their property rights since they have not given an opportunity to be heard before the city took an action that allegedly deprived them of their ability to access their residences and businesses. The plaintiffs claim that the protestors' presence and activities take from them their right to enjoyment of their property. In addition to procedural due process violations, the plaintiffs also allege substantive due process violations because they argue that the city acted without regard to the known destruction that protestors would cause.
The class action suit also alleges that the city is responsible for the nuisance that the protestors allegedly pose to the businesses and residents of the area. Here, the plaintiffs cite the noise and the blocking of foot traffic as being the nuisance. The claim is that the city has facilitated the nuisance by providing barriers to the protestors that ultimately block the traffic. In addition, the plaintiffs claim that the sanitary conditions created by the protestors are also a form of public nuisance.
Besides alleging due process violations, the plaintiffs also claim that Seattle violated state law by unlawfully gifting the area to the protestors. State law prohibits municipalities and counties from giving any property as a gift unless it is done to support the poor and infirm. The lawsuit argues that the police's vacation of the area constitutes a gift to the protestors, even though they were never given legal title to the area.
Finally, the lawsuit accuses the city of an illegal taking of property. The United States Constitution forbids the government from taking someone's property without a valid reason to do so and without paying compensation. In order to take someone's property, the government would need to use eminent domain, and even that right is not unlimited. The plaintiffs claim that because they do not have full use of the property, the city took the pproperty by withdrawing the police.
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