Businesses in the former CHAZ/CHOP aren't so sure about abolishing the police (and worry about Antifa)

In June a group of businesses in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood filed a lawsuit against the city. The argument made in their legal complaint was basically that the CHAZ/CHOP area was causing harm to their businesses and that the city, at least until a string of shootings forced it to shut down the zone, seemed to be going along with those efforts. Today the NY Times published an article about the lawsuit titled “Abolish the Police? Those Who Survived the Chaos in Seattle Aren’t So Sure.

Faizel Khan was being told by the news media and his own mayor that the protests in his hometown were peaceful, with “a block party atmosphere.”

But that was not what he saw through the windows of his Seattle coffee shop. He saw encampments overtaking the sidewalks. He saw roving bands of masked protesters smashing windows and looting.

Young white men wielding guns would harangue customers as well as Mr. Khan, a gay man of Middle Eastern descent who moved here from Texas so he could more comfortably be out. To get into his coffee shop, he sometimes had to seek the permission of self-appointed armed guards to cross a border they had erected.

He wasn’t the only business owner facing these problems:

The employees of Bergman’s Lock and Key say they were followed by demonstrators with baseball bats. Cure Cocktail, a local bar and charcuterie, said its workers were asked by protesters to pledge loyalty to the movement: “Are you for the CHOP or are you for the police?” they were asked, according to the lawsuit.

John McDermott runs an auto repair shop in the zone. One night he got a call that someone had broken in. He and his son raced over and found someone cleaning out the register and preparing to burn the building down. They held him and called police but police never came. Instead a mob of protesters showed up claiming he had kidnapped the thief:

“They started coming across the fence — you see all these beautiful kids, a mob but kids — and they have guns and are pointing them at you and telling you they’re going to kill you,” Mr. McDermott said. “Telling me I’m the K.K.K. I’m not the K.K.K.”

Khan and the other business owners suing the city consider themselves progressives and are on board with Black Lives Matter. In fact, the Times notes that even now some businesses owners in Seattle and Portland hesitate to speak out because they don’t want to provide ammunition to critics of BLM. But Mr. Khan says another thing keeping business owners quiet is fear:

Even weeks after the protests, blocks of his previously bustling neighborhood remained boarded up and covered in shattered glass. Many business owners are scared to speak out, Mr. Khan said, because of worries that they would be targeted further.

Mr. McDermott, the auto shop owner, was highlighted on a website called Cop Blaster after his ordeal. Cop Blaster labels him and other business owners who dare to call police for help “cop callers.” The site posted his location and phone number and since then he’s received countless phone calls harassing him and his employees. Calling the police when you’re being robbed is an unforgivable sin in the former CHAZ/CHOP.

Because of this, many businesses are now paying for private, armed security. Mr Khan and other business owners have hired a firm called Iconic Security which they pay “thousands” of dollars a month to patrol their businesses even now.

The Times spoke to a man named Rick Hearns who carries two guns and is working as a “Black Lives Matter community guard” whatever that is. Hearns blames the violence and chaos at the CHAZ/CHOP on a subset of people who he identifies as Antifa:

“It’s antifa,” he said. “They don’t want to see the progress we’ve made. They want chaos.”

Many of the business owners on Capitol Hill agreed: Much of the violence they saw and the intimidation of their patrons came from a group these business owners identified as antifa, which they distinguished from the Black Lives Matter movement.

That’s an appealing story in some ways. Antifa really does seem to be behind a lot of the violence in Portland but blaming everything on them in Seattle doesn’t really fit with reality. I can believe white Antifa kids were behind a lot of the vandalism but a lot of the people walking around with guns and reporting to CHAZ “warlord” Raz Simone were black. I believe all of the shooting victims were black too. So the claim that white kids from the suburbs were responsible for everything bad that happened doesn’t really add up.

I don’t know if the business owners have a case here. Ed seemed skeptical back when he wrote about the lawsuit. But at a minimum I hope this story causes a great deal of humiliation for Mayor Jenny Durkan whose response to having an autonomous zone declared in her city was a dumpster fire of incompetence. Police Chief Carmen Best was clearly pushing back on this from the start saying she wasn’t responsible for abandoning the precinct in the center of the zone. She also returned to the area and demanded an end to it before Mayor Durkan finally came around.

Finally, this article should also be an embarrassment to the media outlets that went along with Durkan’s portrayal of the zone as a block party. For example, this piece published by Politico:

It seems I live in a city undergoing a “totalitarian takeover” that will lead to “fascist outcomes” and could “metastasize across the country.” Its government “has handed over an entire portion of the city to domestic terrorists.” This “group of rogue protesters” is attempting “to get a stranglehold on the city.” This radical “army” of “conquistadors” has “rolled over the police like Cortez rolling over the Aztecs.”…

What’s going on in these four blocks that shook the world is indeed an occupation, but it looks nothing like the conquista touted on Fox. It’s also the “block party” that Mayor Jenny Durkan has compared it to, to gleeful jeers from Fox commentators. And it’s other things as well—a protean, issue-focused but conceptually sprawling formative community, at once silly and serious, spontaneous and disciplined.

What a load of hogwash. Hopefully no one, even the author of that tripe, is dumb enough to believes CHAZ/CHOP was a block party after reading the Times’ account.