SEATTLE – Two new businesses have filed federal lawsuits against the city of Seattle over 2020’s Capitol Hill Organized Protest, alleging the city endorsed and supported a “destructive occupation of the neighborhood.”
The lawsuits; from Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream, the boutique scoop shop with nine locations throughout the Seattle area, and Hugo Properties LLC, which owns an apartment building across from Cal Anderson Park; were both filed this week, nearly three years after the protest zone was shuttered, and are virtually identical.
They also come after a multi-million dollar settlement in a similar lawsuit brought by the same attorney.
The lawsuits, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Seattle, are the latest in a string of litigation over the city-sanctioned protest zone that popped up following weeks of contentious clashes between protesters and Seattle police that frequently ended with the neighborhood engulfed in tear gas.
A group of more than a dozen neighborhood businesses sued the city in June 2020, even before CHOP was cleared. That lawsuit was settled earlier this year, with the city agreeing to pay $3.6 million after a federal district judge issued severe legal sanctions against the city for deleting text messages between high-ranking officials, including then-Mayor Jenny Durkan and then-Police Chief Carmen Best.
Prior to the settlement, the judge in the case said he would instruct the jury that it may presume the text messages were detrimental to the city’s legal position and that there’s significant circumstantial evidence they were deleted intentionally.
Figures provided by the city attorney’s office show the city paid more than $6.2 million to Seattle law firm Harrigan Leyh Farmer & Thomsen to defend that lawsuit.
The city also paid $500,000 to settle a lawsuit from the family of Horace Lorenzo Anderson, who was 19 when he was shot and killed in CHOP.
Earlier this year, Peter Pak – owner of Oma Bap, a Korean restaurant at 11th Avenue and Olive Way – sued the city, alleging tens of thousands of dollars in lost business and other damages as a result of CHOP.
And just this week, the family of Antonio Mays Jr. sued the city, Durkan and City Councilmember Kshama Sawant blaming them for actions and inaction that led to his Mays’s shooting death in the final days of CHOP. Mays was 16 when he was shot and killed in the protest zone, and it was his death that effectively ended the city’s waning tolerance toward the protest zone. The killing remains unsolved.
CHOP grew out of protests over the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, a killing that brought about a reckoning in Seattle and nationwide. Weeks of clashes between Black Lives Matter protesters and police prompted Seattle officials to entirely withdraw officers from the East Precinct on Capitol Hill. Thousands of people flooded area surrounding nearby Cal Anderson Park. Roads were blocked off – with help from the city – and encampments sprang up in the park.
Meanwhile, complaints arose from residents and from some local businesses that said they were cut off from customers, who were inconvenienced or intimidated by the gathering and lack of law-enforcement protection.
Neither Molly Moon’s nor Hugo Properties were part of the initial lawsuit filed by the businesses. But both are represented by Angelo Calfo, one of the lawyers who represented the businesses that got the multi-million dollar settlement.
The lawsuits accuse the city of ceding Cal Anderson Park and the surrounding area to protesters, providing them with barriers, dumpsters, hand-washing stations and rest rooms, and allowing the area to be blocked off from car traffic and basic public services like police and fire.
“The City’s actions, assistance, endorsements, and encouragements of CHOP and CHOP participants greatly increased the likelihood of property damage, loss of business revenue, loss of use of property, and other damage,” the lawsuits say.
Neither the City Attorney’s Office nor Calfo responded to a request for comment.