The youth jail construction site
The youth jail construction site SH

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Police are investigating a suspected arson at the construction site of a juvenile detention facility in Central District.

According to the Seattle Police Department blotter, this is what happened early Tuesday morning:

An officer working as security for the site heard sounds from inside the fence line just after 3:30 a.m. When he went to investigate he found multiple small fires and what looked to be some shattered glass bottles. The officer grabbed a fire extinguisher and put out the fires and continued to investigate. He was able to spot one more fire on top of an office trailer that was quickly extinguished by additional arriving officers.

Police have not identified any suspects, and nobody has taken credit for the fire, which was first reported by Capitol Hill Seattle Blog.

Cameron Satterfield, a spokesperson for King County, said the fire resulted in "basically cosmetic" damage to a construction trailer. The actual facility was not damaged. SPD has requested video from security cameras on the site, but the "video is pretty dark," Satterfield said.

The $210 million construction project has become the center of one of the most contentious political debates in recent Seattle history. A coalition of activists organized under the name No New Youth Jail opposes the 112 bed facility, arguing that it represents a commitment to jailing children, despite evidence of adverse effects of incarceration on developing adolescent brains and data showing brown and black kids get locked up at disproportionate rates. The activists won a victory in September, when a court ruled that the county has miscalculated the property taxes its collected for the project.

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When asked about the suspected arson Tuesday evening, Yin Yu, a representative of the No New Youth Jail coalition, said she had just heard the news. She added that the coalition has no comment.

Proponents of the jail argue the current facility is run-down, and that the new detention center will offer more amenities and restorative justice programs. Plus, they say, youth will continue to commit horrific crimes like murder and rape, and there should be a place to detain them.

Activists have been peacefully protesting the new jail for years. They've ramped up activity in recent months, demanding the county stop construction, shutting down traffic in front of the county administrative building, and blocking construction vehicles from entering the site.

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