One black SUV. Two black SUV's. Three black SUV's. Nope. There are so many black SUV's in Chinese President Xi Jinping's downtown Seattle "security zone" that I've completely lost count.
I spent the morning wandering around this newly created, seven-square-block federal security area—which, per the Seattle Police Department, is "bounded by Olive Street, 7th Avenue, Lenora Street, and 4th Avenue." I talked to protesters and Xi's supporters just a couple of blocks from the Westin hotel where Xi is staying. Seattleites are still doing their thing, drinking kombucha and carrying their small dogs in jackets past the security barriers and whatnot. There are lots of SPD officers on foot and bike cops. You can get close to the hotel, but Westin guests have to check in with the Secret Service before entering, SPD's Sergeant Debbie Backstrom said.
The Bank of America branch next door has private security guards, and the Starbucks on 6th and Stewart had a Mandarin-speaking greeter at the door when I arrived earlier this afternoon. I spotted more fashion-conscious-than-usual footwear inside the Starbucks, which is inherently suspicious and unnerving. A man wearing a suit and an unplugged earpiece was diddling on his phone at the end of the counter for a while, and SPD officers drifted in and out. The cashier told me that they had to lock the doors for half an hour when the Chinese president arrived.
Eventually, the man with the earpiece stuck it back in his ear and headed back to the Westin parking lot. That Starbucks didn't have any available outlets to charge my laptop, so I walked past more yellow security tape, more police officers, a plainclothes cop (agent?) with a K-9, and past the federal courthouse to another Starbucks a block away. Inexplicably, some trees along the Stewart Street sidewalk are connected by plastic twine. Later on, I watched one cyclist in an Amazon Prime t-shirt get clotheslined by the makeshift barrier.
A Secret Service-type and an SPD officer surveilled the corner of 7th Ave and Stewart. I looked at them. They looked at me. I stared at my shoes and didn't look up to check whether they were still looking at me when I crossed the street.