An investment management firm which oversees $1.5 billion in assets will leave Seattle and relocate to Phoenix due to the ongoing protests in the Pacific Northwest city, its CEO said.
The announcement by Smead Capital Management CEO Cole Smead to Glendale, Arizona, FM radio station KTAR on Monday comes two weeks after protestors demonstrating against the death of a Black man in police custody in Minneapolis established the “Capital Hill Autonomous Zone,” or CHAZ, in a six-block downtown area of Seattle.
Police abandoned a precinct within the zone and three people have been shot within the past three days, including a 19-year-old who died.
“The unrest that has taken place in the city of Seattle … there is really is not a downtown business community today,” said Smead, who hopes to complete the move by July 1.
Smead said his company is struggling to recruit new employees, and, while Seattle taxes are lower, Phoenix has a lower cost of living.
“My colleagues can pick the socio-economic rung of life that they want … live their lives, build their households and have a family if they’d like,” Smead said.
“Where we’re coming from just wasn’t like that.”
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan told CNN on June 11 that the CHAZ, which is also known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, or CHOP, could be a “summer of love.”
She has since recanted, saying the remarks were in jest and a “poor choice of words.”
Regardless, Smead says the business community is taking notice of the city government’s reaction to the protests.
“We’re hearing rumors of 40-story buildings that will be only 20-percent occupied by October,” Smead said. “My biggest concern for Seattle was what the business community is going to come back to, and what kind of businesses are going to come back for customers.”
CHAZ, or CHOP, has been an outgrowth of the protests and riots that have followed the death of George Floyd after his arrest for using a counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store in Minneapolis. Critics claim a widely circulated video of a white police officer with his knee on Floyd’s neck was evidence of systemic racism in America and particularly law enforcement.
Those within CHAZ have said the area was created as a society where police were no longer necessary.
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