Daily demonstrations and scattered clashes with police have been common in Seattle. On Memorial Day, Minneapolis police put George Floyd, an unarmed man, in a chokehold. He was suspected of using a counterfeit bill. After Floyd died during the incident, a video circulated widely online showing the officer pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck.
This resulted in an explosion of “Black Lives Matter” protests and renewed calls to defund the police. One such movement in Seattle has gained significant ground. In Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, repeated clashes with protesters wore down police in the area. Finally, they abandoned the East Precinct, and protesters quickly moved in and claimed the area.
Thus, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone was born. Comprising several city blocks in Seattle, the Zone claims to be independent from the US and proudly touts itself as a cop-free zone. A “No Cop Co-Op” hands out snacks and drinks, free of charge. Community gardens have already sprung up. Speakers address the crowds on academic topics including defunding city police departments.
Online, President Donald Trump has disavowed the CHAZ protesters as “ugly anarchists”. His words ring largely hollow, however, when one sees the activity in the Zone. Children create chalk murals on the streets. Local musicians play for amassed crowds. Local restaurants say they’re happy for the increase in foot traffic the protests have brought.
Some sources, including Fox News, have tried to paint the picture of the Autonomous Zone being a haven of lawlessness. One Fox News headline announces that local businesses are being extorted by the CHAZ protesters. Sources from within Seattle, however, have stated that’s a blatant lie. Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best has stated that there are no reports of businesses being threatened.
“We haven’t had any formal reports of this occurring,” Best told the Seattle Times. Reporting to the contrary, however, has already given the impression of the protesters as anarchists. Brian O’Connor, a local restaurant owner, told the Seattle Times that “This protest has not hurt us at all.”
Police in Seattle have stated that they do intend to return to the precinct, but they don’t currently have a definite timetable. Protesters disagree, as the precinct now bears a large “property of the people of Seattle” banner. Many have indicated hopes to turn the former police precinct into a community center. Speaking of the protesters, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan bluntly noted, “It is patriotism.”