An aerial view of the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest at Cal Anderson Park in Seattle. (King County Records)

Fourteen days after Seattle Police abandoned their East Precinct, then Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office began to develop “covert” plans to expel protesters from the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, better known by the acronym “CHOP.” The protest zone had taken over a couple city blocks, painted a Black Lives Matter mural on Pine Street, and started a community garden inside Seattle’s Cal Anderson Park.

Yet, episodes of violence had also occurred within the area. On Saturday June 20th, 17 year-old Horace Lorenzo Anderson Jr. was shot and killed at the edge of the CHOP zone. Another man was also shot and injured. On Sunday June 21st, another shooting left a 17 year-old injured. Sexual assaults were also reported

The next evening, Monday June 22nd, Mayor Durkan held a press conference where she said, “it is time for people to go home.” A business she was financially invested in had also become encircled within the CHOP, surrounded by protesters and city barricades. Durkan wanted everyone out. 

Behind the scenes, even before episodes of gun violence rocked the CHOP zone, public records show that the Mayor’s Office, Seattle Parks and Seattle Public Utilities managers were already planning to turn off utilities to the park in an effort to disperse the protesters.

Text Messages from SPU deputy director Andrew Lee show that as early as June 20th at 11:23am, SPU had water crews, “ready to shut off the water to Cal Anderson Park. I’ve told them not to dispatch until we give them the green light.”

Other text messages between SPU then-CEO Mami Hara and Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller show orders to shut off potable water to the park, then reversing course later in the day: 

Casey Sixkiller [6/23/2020 6:09:53 AM]: Pls also begin turning off the water.

Mami Hara [6/23/2020 6:10:14 AM]: Can we get a flier please?

Casey Sixkiller [6/23/2020 6:11:49 AM]: We are working through official park closure now and then will work up fliers/announcements to get the word out, yes. But we’re not waiting on these other pieces in terms of service or water. Mayor said yesterday time to start going home.

Andrew Lee [6/23/2020 8:37:19 AM]: Water has been shut off to the Park.

Mami Hara [6/23/2020 12:37:24 PM]: This has been retweeted 70 times in a short period and is picking up steam [The image of a twitter thread exchange was attached to the text message and is provided below.]

The thread reads: “Y’all better get on top of this. even if our mayor is against peaceful protestors, it doesn’t mean the ppl fighting for Black lives + police reform don’t deserve access to water [break] farmers are scrambling rn so they’re having a hard time getting the word out – if you have any connections w/ local businesses who can help refil water containers pls reach out to them! [break] I drove over this morning to donate veggie starters/coffee grounds + now I’m driving home with 7 gallon water jugs to refill. because there is NO WATER FOR THE FARMERS, much less for the plants [break] @MayorJenny is an absolute disgrace of a human, i can’t wait for your impeachment [clapping hand emoji] [break] CHOP farmers: hey we’re gonna grow food for the community/foodbanks/ppl in need while also advocating for BLM [break] Durkan: this criminal act must be punished
Caption: An image showing a twitter thread sent by Mami Hara to Casey Sixkiller.

Casey Sixkiller [6/23/2020 12:41:22 PM]: Should we turn it back on?

Mami Hara [6/23/2020 12:41:36 PM]: I think so.

Mami Hara [6/23/2020 12:41:51 PM]: Water is a human right.

Casey Sixkiller [6/23/2020 12:42:16 PM]: So is living in peace

Casey Sixkiller [6/23/2020 12:43:56 PM]: Turn it back on but I want it to be acknowledged that it’s time to go and we will work with parks to make sure the garden is watered

Mami Hara [6/23/2020 12:44:11 PM]: Yes great idea

Casey Sixkiller [6/23/2020 12:44:31 PM]: But there needs to be something from them. So far we’re doing all the giving and they aren’t doing shit.

[End text exchange]

By 3:05pm, the water had been turned back on.

The brief incident inflamed tensions between the city and protesters. The Mayor’s office direction had also created turmoil within city departments. An SDOT Engineer directly questioned the Mayor’s direction, calling it a, “covert and insidious way to get protesters to disperse.” Calls from community members affected by the water shut off reached SPU’s leadership.

At the height of a deadly global pandemic, the Mayor’s office ordered potable water to be shut off to a group of constituents risking their lives to demand accountability and equity. While these specific text messages reveal behind the scenes posturing of the city executive, thousands of other texts have since been destroyed, perhaps in violation of state law. 

As reported by the Seattle Times, the King County Sheriff is pursuing an active investigation into Jenny Durkan, Carmen Best, and other officials, whose communications were mysteriously destroyed during one of the most tumultuous moments in city history. 

Casey Sixkiller’s text messages on his own personal device were destroyed during this period according to the Seattle Times. These text messages obtained from other devices open a window into his communications and city tactics during this period. While they are only a partial window, they show a disturbing coordination to deprive a certain class of individuals, those who risked their personal safety to protest, of their human rights. The record shows that even municipal governments will use a multitude of sinister and covert tactics to disrupt, discredit, and infiltrate civil rights movements in the 21st Century. 

Article Author
Glen Stellmacher (Guest Contributor)

Glen Stellmacher is a licensed architect. He is a graduate and former lecturer at the University of Washington. His work can be found around Seattle and in print within Advancing Wood Architecture: A Computational Approach, Trajectories, a compendium of research on robotics, digital design, fabrication and sustainable forestry practices and online.