The reporting on this is surprisingly scarce, enough so that I can’t tell if it’s a violent mini-insurrection or an especially cringy hippie sit-in that the authorities let get out of hand.
This post lays out the timeline. Apparently Seattle PD cracked down hard on protesters on Sunday night despite the mayor having given a speech earlier that day calling for deescalation. In order to lower the temperature, the week-long blockade by the police of their East Precinct was lifted and demonstrators were allowed to march past. But that’s not all: Fearing, I guess, that demonstrators might try to do to the precinct what rioters did to that police precinct in Minneapolis, cops and the National Guard pulled out of the building entirely by Monday afternoon. They removed equipment and files, boarded the place up, and skedaddled.
And thus was born a new nation, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (or “CHAZ” for short). A place where progressives can indulge in some of the most humiliating stereotypes of left-wing protest subculture.
By early Tuesday, demonstrators had established a perimeter with improvised barriers and deputized scouts. In the afternoon, the “No Cop Co-Op” popped up, slinging kebabs, snacks, and free water to passersby. A teach-in square was established at the intersection of 12th and Pine. Tents were pitched near the precinct, where people were encouraged to stay throughout the night, or even just for two or three hours to hold the space. And by nightfall, they’d even built their own outdoor cinema…
The crowd was energized to build connections. People spoke about investing in Black-owned banks, divesting from corporations, and prison reform. One speaker issued a warning about the American Legislative Exchange Council, “a group of usually white men from major corporations… who don’t know our issues and make laws.”
“Midway through the evening, protestors hung a banner on the East Precinct that read, ‘Property of the People,'” reported KOMO. Photos of the CHAZ are abundant on social media, some courtesy of our Townhall colleague Julio Rosas. Why, there’s even a map, replete with deeply embarrassing labels like “Regime Occupied Safeway”:
All fledgling nations have their struggles and the CHAZ is no different. An unforeseen complication has already arisen:
You'd have to have a heart of stone not to laugh. pic.twitter.com/2AelV8CgOb
— Jeff B, fightin' the COVID one bootleg at a time (@EsotericCD) June 10, 2020
What’s unclear to me is the extent to which force is being used to hold this “territory” around the precinct. “Some nearby businesses told KOMO News they did fear of the potential for violence from an uprising without SPD present,” reported a local news bureau. “However, crews on scene have not witnessed any violence since the police left.” Another story claims that speakers at the, ahem, teach-in area of the CHAZ have repeatedly warned people not to get violent. “If you’re here to f*** sh*t up, GO HOME!” was the general message, according to The Stranger. “If you see someone doing some bullsh*t, say something about them doing some bullsh*t,” one speaker said.
It may not be the case that Seattle PD is afraid to enter the area, in other words. The mayor and the police chief may have decided that, for now, they’re going to sit back in the name of de-escalation and let these tools cosplay a people’s revolution. Maybe they’ll get bored and gradually drift away in the next few days, averting a confrontation. Or maybe they’ll get more menacing with the locals, which will work to the police’s benefit by reminding the country that no matter how mad Americans may be right now, they still need cops to keep the peace.
But there are also signs that things may be turning sinister. Andy Ngo claims that there are calls within the CHAZ for an armed guard. There’s incitement to that effect happening on social media too. A reader points out that some of the comments to this story already allege that criminal intimidation is taking place inside the zone. One commenter says he’s seen people carrying AK-47s; another commenter replied but didn’t dispute the claim, arguing that the “rifles” were needed for self-defense because of rumors that a group of Proud Boys was headed their way. Another commenter says he owns a business within the zone and has been shaken down for protection money:
I’m a business owner in the area; my business was entered this evening by a group of six Free Cap Hill participants who requested I pay $500 to help finance what they said was community security and protection. They said they will accept cash or Bitcoin; I told them I would prefer to pay in the latter in hope it would buy time. They’re supposedly coming back tomorrow to give me digital wallet details (none of them actually had that info when they showed up; I’m assuming there’s a leader or someone in the background who keeps it). Even $500 is going to be a hit for us as we only just reopened but I’d rather pay than ask for trouble.
Is that true, or just disinformation by some rando who wanted to give the police a reason to move in? Who knows? It wouldn’t be the first Seattle cops have essentially stood aside and let woke thugs run wild, though.
A confrontation between police and the CHAZ hippies could end up feeding the narratives on both sides of the political debate over use of force by the police. It might be time to at least let National Guard in the area start carrying sidearms. Stay tuned. In lieu of an exit question, here was the scene last night at Seattle’s City Hall. Rumors on Twitter said that the protesters had broken in, but it sounds like they were let in by a city council member who was marching with them.
— Jake Goldstein-Street (@GoldsteinStreet) June 10, 2020