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Seattle protesters: We are here to dismantle systemic racism

Protesters from Black Collective Voices spoke Thursday saying they still want their demands met, including defunding the Seattle Police Department at least by half.

SEATTLE — Protesters that have been active in the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone, or CHOP, in Seattle, held a news conference saying the goal of their movement is to dismantle systemic racism. 

Naudia Miller of Black Collective Voices said Thursday the collective of protesters, activists, educators and volunteers in the CHOP zone grew organically after intense clashes with police who pulled out of the East Precinct last Monday. 

She and other representatives of the collective said they want their demands met including defunding the Seattle Police Department by at least half and using that money to fund community restorative justice, housing and health care. 

"Let it be clear, we will not be bought off. We will not attend meetings where the goal is to buy us off, we are here to dismantle systemic racism," said Miller. "Until these demands are met we will continue to organize and strategize the people."

Earlier this week, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan proposed $20 million in cuts to the police budget in the remainder of 2020, the largest cuts to any department as the city attempts to fill a hole of about $400 million caused by the coronavirus.

In a statement, the mayor said the city is facing record unemployment and "a civil rights movement that is demanding action to rethink policing, acknowledge and dismantle institutional racism and invest in true community, health and opportunity."

RELATED: Seattle mayor proposes cutting $20 million in police funding to aid budget shortfall

The mayor proposed slashing about 5% of the Seattle Police budget this year with an officer hiring freeze next year until a plan is developed “reflecting community priorities for public safety.” 

Durkan has asked the department to prepare models of what 20%, 30% and 50% budget cuts would look like.  

Meanwhile, residents who live in or near the CHOP zone are growing tired and concerned for their safety and also fear the movement has lost direction.

"It’s over, this place is over, the air has gone out of the balloon," said Michael Murray, who lives near the zone and has walked the area since its inception. "Nobody [is in charge], that's been the whole problem from the beginning."

On Thursday afternoon, crowds in the zone were noticeably thinner than in recent weeks. People have been slowly filing out of the zone following three shootings over the weekend, one of which left a 19-year-old man dead. 

"It's not safe for those of us who live here," said one neighbor of the zone who did not want her identity publicized. "It seems like we're supposed to sacrifice our peace of mind, our safety for this movement and I don't think that's fair to ask of us." 

In terms of what's next for the CHOP, that's still unclear. Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best has said her officers plan to reenter the East Precinct as soon as early next week.

RELATED: Seattle wants to dismantle 'CHOP' zone and return police to East Precinct

RELATED: Man shot near CHOP says protestors saved his life, blasts police response