Apart from the ubiquitous rain, it’s all pretty much like July 4 up in Raz’s domain. There’s an ambient smell of grease in the air, and people sear hotdogs on curbside grills. Admittedly I didn’t see any patriotic bunting or hear the National Anthem when I visited, but for some reason there was a mural depicting the late Ronald Reagan in an unusual pose. Some teenagers passed a bottle of beer among themselves, while another group was busy at work spray-painting the wall of an abandoned convenience store. At night there’s a touch of Dunkirk about the scene as you pass by rows of bedraggled-looking campers hunched together around braziers or stretched out on army-surplus cots.
You also have to hand it to the inhabitants of CHAZ for their ambition. ‘This is no simple request to end police brutality.’ the organizers tweeted at the head of a 30-point list of demands. These range from specific criminal-justice reforms up to what might be called the socio-economic realm. They want the ‘de-gentrification’ of Seattle, for example, increased funding for ‘arts and culture’, and a segregated local healthcare system. (Yes, that’s right: ‘Only black doctors and nurses should be employed specifically to care for black patients,’ it says here.) Just how all this might be achieved remains fuzzy, but no mainstream Seattle official has seen fit to seriously question the protesters’ agenda. The grown-ups have abandoned the family home to the teenagers, who are hanging off the gutters and binging on vodka like Russians, and there’s no prospect of them returning to restore order anytime soon.