SEATTLE mayor Jenny Durkan could reportedly face charges for failing to clear the "autonomous zone" set up by Black Lives Matter protesters in the city earlier this year.
The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, known as CHAZ, was a six-block area occupied throughout June as part of demonstrations that followed the death of George Floyd the previous month.
Floyd was a 46-year-old African-American who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes during an arrest in Minneapolis.
Seattle was one of thousands of cities across the US and around the world that saw protests and unrest following the death.
On June 8, the city's police department vacated its East Precinct following a week of clashes between riot officers and protesters.
Later the same day, demonstrators set up barricades and checkpoints around the block surrounding the precinct declared the area an autonomous zone.
The area expanded, eventually taking up six blocks and a park, and remained in place for over three weeks before being cleared on July 1 by police following an emergency order from Mayor Durkan.
Attorney general William Barr has now asked prosecutors in the civil rights division of the Justice Department to look into whether Durkan could be charged for failing to clear the area sooner, the New York Times reported.
Barr is also said to have asked prosecutors to consider bringing sedition charges against rioters and others who committed violent crimes during the unrest across the US.
The US law against sedition states that it is a crime to "conspire to overthrow or destroy by force the government" or to oppose the government's authority "by force".
'CHILLING ABUSE OF POWER'
During the period for which CHAZ was in place, Mayor Durkan and the Trump administration publicly clashed over how the occupation should be addressed, with the president repeatedly threatening to deploy federal troops.
"Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will," he tweeted.
Durkan said in response that the majority of the protests were peaceful and that "the threat to invade Seattle – to divide and incite violence in our city – is not only unwelcome, it would be illegal".
Speaking today, Durkan called reports of Barr's request "chilling" and called the move "the latest abuse of power from the Trump administration".
"The Department of Justice cannot become a political weapon operated at the behest of the President to target those who have spoken out against this administration's actions," she said.
"That is an act of tyranny, not of democracy.
"Ultimately, this is not a story about me. It is about the how this President and his Attorney General are willing to subvert the law and use the Department of Justice for political purposes."
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