Trump fumes as protesters stake out 'cop-free zone' in Seattle

'Take back your city now,' US president tells Washington governor

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After days of violent clashes with protesters, police in Seattle have largely withdrawn from a neighbourhood that protesters have turned into a "cop-free zone" that has US President Donald Trump fuming.

Mr Trump taunted Washington state Governor Jay Inslee and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan about the situation on Twitter, saying the city had been taken over by “anarchists".

“Take back your city now. If you don’t do it, I will,” he tweeted.

The area, called “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone,” or Chaz, sprang up after police on Monday removed barricades surrounding the East Precinct police station and left the building.

Officers used tear gas, pepper spray and stun grenades over the weekend to disperse demonstrators they said were assaulting them with projectiles.

Mr Trump has sparred before with Mr Inslee and Ms Durkan, both of whom are liberal Democrats.

Mr Inslee, who earlier sought his party’s presidential nomination, tweeted on Thursday that state officials would not allow threats of military violence from the White House.

“The US military serves to protect Americans, not the fragility of an insecure president,” he tweeted.

The zone set up by protesters stretches across several blocks of the youthful Capitol Hill neighbourhood, where dozens of people listen to speakers calling for police reform and racial justice. In the evenings, free music performances take place

Signs surrounding the area read “You are entering free Capitol Hill”, and “No cop co-op” along pavements where people sell water and other wares.

"From what I've gathered, we're trying to take our community back so we can live without a massive police force patrolling the streets," resident Michael Taylor told The Seattle Times.

At the weekend, police were criticised by city council members and other elected leaders.

The demonstrations have been largely peaceful since officers eased back on their weekend tactics.

Police officials say they are looking to reopen the precinct.

On Wednesday, Assistant Chief Deanna Nollette said the barriers were removed from the front of the building after it became a flashpoint between officers and protesters.

Ms Nollette said the precinct was boarded up because of credible threats that it would be vandalised or burnt.

She said protesters set up their own barricades, which are intimidating some residents.

“We are dedicated to working with peaceful protesters on a way to move forward,” Ms Nollette said.

Demonstrators say they want to see the precinct turned into a community centre or used for purposes other than law enforcement.

Councilwoman Kshama Sawant on Thursday disputed accounts of violence or intimidation by protesters in the area and said it was more like a street fair, with political discussions and a drum circle.

“The right wing has been spreading rumours that there is some sort of lawlessness and crime taking place at the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, but it is exactly the opposite of that,” said Ms Sawant, a socialist and critic of Mr Durkan and the police.

She said she wanted the precinct to be “converted into a public resource that will actually be helpful to society".