On Friday, June 5, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced a 30-day ban on police using tear gas. By Sunday night, the police had already broken that rule. Come Monday, the Mayor announced that police would be abandoning the city's East Precinct, including the police station, which had been cordoned off for two weeks after a man drove a car through a crowd of protestors and shot one.
As soon as the police left the area, protestors repurposed the barricades, and turned the 6-block area into a makeshift anarchist enclave they're calling the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ. (and yes, it already has its own Wikipedia page.)
Streets surrounding the #EastPrecinct– now known by protesters as the Capitol Hill Free Zone – are free of cars and police. Stands with food and medical aid are on every corner, along with tents for protesters who spend the night. #CapitolHill #Seattleprotest #Seattle pic.twitter.com/Hq4EdtTdPM
— Nicole Jennings (@nicoleKIROFM) June 9, 2020
I'm outside of the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct for @townhallcom. Police have pulled out of the area and protesters have set up barricades in the streets. They have declared it a "Cop Free Zone." pic.twitter.com/iYFQ9B4jhz
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) June 9, 2020
Optimism, Rudy's, Bang Bang, and Poquitos have opened their bathrooms (and Optimism has hella supplies too). Atulea is offering free water. Oma Bap is out there with bells on. If the neighborhood wasn't so supportive of the protests, things would be a lot harder! 2/3 pic.twitter.com/SF13dWPRPx
— Shir Goldbird (@shirgoldbird) June 10, 2020
Scenes from the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone #CHAZ
According to one activist in the zone – "It's people who are realizing their power and it's really special. I am glad I got to be part of starting it. They want to do something with the building, like a community center." pic.twitter.com/x9ojr1uurn
— Party for Socialism and Liberation (@pslweb) June 11, 2020
The alleged organizers behind this anarchist enclave have also released a list of 30 demands regarding reforms to education, economics, healthcare, and the justice system. In that post, they clearly noted:
Although we have liberated Free Capitol Hill in the name of the people of Seattle, we must not forget that we stand on land already once stolen from the Duwamish People, the first people of Seattle, and whose brother, John T. Williams of the Nuu-chah-nulth tribe up north was murdered by the Seattle Police Department 10 years ago.
The community who occupies the CHAZ has since launched a free outdoor film screening series, beginning with Ava DuVernay's fantastic documentary 13th and followed by Paris is Burning.
Absolutely agree. Right now at CHAZ there is food, security, bathrooms, art, love, public discourse, action, education, film viewing, and much needed community building. Here's #CHAZ on 6.9.2020 watching @ava's documentary 13th, featuring Angela Davis. The crowd is here to stay. pic.twitter.com/krWLiGDwkF
— oliver🌹 (@olivertreanorm) June 10, 2020
— Shauna Sowersby (@Shauna_Sowersby) June 11, 2020
There are also some growing art installations, like on Trump's Wall; activists and artists have similarly started to paint "Black Lives Matter" on the asphalt. Seattle's Mutual Aid Bookstore has also setup shop in the CHAZ, with books by Black and Indigenous writers:
Donald J. Trump, of course, has thrown another tantrum about this, once again exposing his absolute disregard for traditional Republican talking points about prioritizing self-governance, liberty, and personal responsibility over increased federal rule. Ted Cruz also echoed this, because he's Trump's chump and doesn't even have enough spine to stand up for his own family against the man's bullying tactics. And of course, the Seattle Police Department is working overtime on a campaign of disinformation full of uncorroborated claims of violence and chaos, attempting to paint the occupants of CHAZ as Antifa snowflakes or whatever. ("During our six-hour afternoon visit, we did not see any examples of what police are talking about, but that doesn't mean it's not happening," reported Matt Markovich of KOMO News in a really embarrassing bit of bootlicking editorialism in an article that otherwise tries to assert its "objectivity.")
— Rich Smith (@richsssmith) June 11, 2020
We'll see how long the CHAZ lasts. But right now, it certainly seems like an interesting experiment.
The Demands of the Collective Black Voices at Free Capitol Hill to the Government of Seattle, Washington [Free Capitol Hill / Medium]
The Dawn of "Free Capitol Hill" [Chase Burns, Rich Smith and Jasmyne Keimig / The Stranger]
A look inside Seattle's newly-formed 'Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone' [Nick Bowman / My Northwest]
An Exceedingly Chill Day at the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone [Rich Smith / The Stranger]
Seattle Protesters Establish 'Autonomous Zone' Outside Evacuated Police Precinct [Christian Britschgi / Reason] (Just, please avoid the comments here, unless you want to see Armchair Libertarians passionately arguing that actually, the American Revolution was perfectly legal, because the Founding Fathers were landowners, and thus had respect for British law, which is some real wild mindfuck of logic)
Image: Joe Mabel / Wikimedia Commons (CC 3.0)