Minority-led occupations in Seattle have had more laudable intentions, as Vanishing Seattle recently recounted in a series of posts on their Instagram feed, and as incoming CHAZ protesters would bear to keep in mind. In March 1970, a group of some 100 Native Americans, led by activist Bernie Whitebear, “invaded” the recently-decommissioned Fort Lawton in south Seattle, turning it into a sort of “FLAZ” of its time. “We, the Native Americans, reclaim the land known as Fort Lawton in the name of all American Indians by right of discovery,” the protesters announced. Occupation eventually turned into negotiations, and led the city to establish the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center on the land, with the fort’s grounds becoming Discovery Park, the largest city park in Seattle. “The episode,” wrote The Seattle Post-Intelligencer at the time, “is a heartwarming example of how major civic disputes can be resolved to the satisfaction of all, given responsible attitudes on the part of the participants and common concern for the community welfare.”
Likewise, in 1972, Chicano activists peacefully occupied an abandoned schoolhouse and converted it into El Centro de la Raza (“Center of the People”), a Latino civil rights organization. “The three-month occupation, in one of Seattle’s coldest winters, resulted in a five-year lease of the building at $1 a year,” the organization explains today. Similarly, when Seattle closed the Colman School in 1985 — one of the first schools in the area to be attended by black students and hire black teachers — in order to expand Interstate 90, African-American activists occupied the building, insisting it be turned into a black history museum. The school district resisted arresting or evicting the protesters out of fear of bad publicity, leading to a standoff that lasted eight years — “the longest act of civil disobedience in U.S. history to date,” according to the Seattle Star history blog. In 1993, the city finally agreed to the Northwest African American Museum, “part of a complex that also contains 36 apartments dedicated as affordable housing.” Even Seattle’s famous 1999 WTO protests involved occupations; “a group of anarchists, estimated to number up to 150, invaded [a warehouse] just before the start of the WTO meetings,” The Kitsap Sun reported at the time, although police were too preoccupied with protesters on the street to do much about it. Today, radicals mostly consider the WTO protests, which resulted in the resignation of the police chief, to be a success.