2 seriously injured by gunfire near Seattle protest area

Two people were in critical condition after a shooting occurred within the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) zone in downtown Seattle early Monday, the fourth shooting that has occurred in the area since protesters forced police out.

Local news affiliate KOMO reported that police had not released any further details about the shooting or whether a suspect had been identified. The two victims were taken to Harborview Medical Center, according to KOMO.

Seattle's top police official told CNN over the weekend that the area, which is several square blocks in size and has been controlled by demonstrators for about a month, has grown violent at night in recent weeks.

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"I'm aware of 3 shootings and one murder that was a result of a shooting in the zone," Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said, according to KOMO. "We've also had some assaults, sexual assaults, a robbery, and a couple of arsons. So the level of violence that is starting in that area certainly increased over time and it is no longer a block party. It's a real public safety issue." 

"It's gone on far too long and we are actively working with administrators, the community, and others who support us to get back in the precinct and provide effective public safety for all who live and reside in that area," she continued.

Protests have continued for weeks in Seattle and in cities across the U.S. over the death of George Floyd. Video of Floyd's encounter with Minneapolis police showed a white officer kneeling on Floyd's neck while Floyd, who is Black, pleaded for medical attention.

Activists have called for reforms to policing and law enforcement in the weeks following his death while also demanding the removal or participating in unsanctioned removals of monuments seen as culturally offensive.