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Barr praises Seattle police chief as officers clear protest zone

Attorney General William BarrBill BarrTrump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Merrick Garland on list to be Biden's attorney general: report DOJ dropping charges against ex-Mexican defense minister MORE released a statement Wednesday praising Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best for leading authorities to retake control of the abandoned police precinct downtown near Capitol Hill.

"I commend Police Chief Carmen Best for her courage and leadership in restoring the rule of law in Seattle," Barr said. "For the past several weeks, the Capitol Hill area of Seattle was occupied by protesters who denied access to police and other law enforcement personnel."

Early Wednesday, following an executive order from Mayor Jenny DurkanJenny DurkanBiden pledges to work with mayors Police accountability board concludes that Seattle police officers used excessive force during encounters with protesters Seattle, Portland, NYC sue Trump administration over threat to pull federal money MORE (D), authorities ordered residents to vacate the downtown area known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) zone.

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Thirteen people were reportedly arrested Wednesday during the raid, as police gave occupiers and demonstrators a chance to exit peacefully before taking back control of the area and the East Precinct.

"Chief Best has rightly committed to continue the substantive discussion while ending the violence, which threatens innocent people and undermines the very rule-of-law principles that the protesters profess to defend," Barr said. "Thanks to the Seattle Police Department, Capitol Hill parks, streets, and businesses are again accessible to the people of Seattle, who may travel throughout their city without fear of violence."

In his statement, Barr offered no mentioning of Durkan, who has been subject to heavy scrutiny from President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race MORE over the escalated protests that formed into Seattle's CHOP zone following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in Minneapolis police custody.

Trump previously warned Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeWashington county warns of at least 17 positive tests after 300-person wedding The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by UAE - US records 1 million COVID-19 cases in a week; governors crack down Washington state issues sweeping restrictions to combat coronavirus surge MORE (D) and Durkan that he would send in the U.S. military to return the zone to order if local officials did not respond promptly.

Durkan said Monday the city's police department would return to the abandoned precinct following three shootings that occurred in the occupied zone.

"The message of today's action is simple but significant," Barr said in closing. "The Constitution protects the right to speak and assemble freely, but it provides no right to commit violence or defy the law, and such conduct has no place in a free society governed by law."