Seattle: Cops Chop CHOP, Raze CHAZ
Since June 8, when protesters in Seattle drove police to abandon the East Precinct station in a neighborhood near downtown, they established the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" (CHAZ) which was later renamed the "Capitol Hill Organized Protest" (CHOP) in a roughly six-block area centered on Pine Street. Protesters planted a garden in nearby Cal Anderson Park, had movie nights, and vowed they wouldn't leave until Seattle abolished the police. Or if you were watching Fox News and reading Donald Trump's tweets, a mob of terrifying violent anarchists terrorized the entire city and needed to be put down as violently as possible, to prove that police are necessary to keep the peace.
In the weeks since, there have been four shootings in or near the area; two people have died. The most recent, early Monday morning, resulted in the death of a 16-year-old boy and the wounding of a 14-year-old boy. That prompted Mayor Jenny Durkan to issue an executive order declaring the occupation an "unlawful assembly" Tuesday night. Early Wednesday morning, Seattle cops in riot gear moved in to clear out the national Rorschach test on law and order. More than 30 people were arrested, mostly for failure to disperse or resisting arrest. Considering the rightwing calls for general carnage, there was relatively little head-busting.
Seattle police begin making arrests in the CHOP zoneyoutu.be
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best chalked the deaths up to protesters' hypocrisy, although no arrests have yet been made in either fatal shooting, saying at a presser Monday, "Two African American men are dead, at a place where they claim to be working for Black Lives Matter." Protesters maintained that the shooting was unrelated to the occupation, but it was in the area, so the area had to be cleaned out.
Police ordered those in the occupied area to leave several times, then began advancing, after announcing that anyone who wanted to leave without being arrested could leave through the protest zone. Detective Mark Jamieson said the only arrests were among "people that wanted to be arrested. We gave multiple orders to disperse — and then either people leave or they don't."
As police moved through the encampment, the Seattle Timesreports,
CHOP volunteer security guards moved through the camp, helping people quickly pack and remove their things before a slowly oncoming line of police arrived, said demonstrator Janene Karnista Hampton, a member of the Syilx People who goes by Karnista.
Karnista and her companion, Dr. Whitefeather, who is Apache and Cheyenne, spent the early morning blessing both police and protesters, burning sage and praying for everyone to get out of the area without violence.
"Everyone has done a good job here because everyone is out safe," she said. "But it will come back. This is not going away. We're still fighting for justice."
Although the clearing of the protest area appears not to have involved any violence, the police made a point of suggesting that the entire area was threatening to explode, posting photos on Twitter of a metal pipe and a kitchen knife seized from one protester. A police department propaganda video on YouTube titled "Violence in the CHOP" showed video of people fleeing gunshots, although the video doesn't actually depict any protesters shooting. (One or two protesters carrying long guns are shown shortly after Monday's shooting, however.)
Police also cleared out people who had been camping at Cal Anderson Park, including as many as 50 people who had been homeless before the protests, according to one of the protesters, who
described the unhoused population as diverse, ranging from people with mental health issues to people who were unhoused by choice "because it's just simpler."
He said CHOP community members had been actively helping many of the homeless occupants stay fed and safe and often served as informal social workers when they were in distress. He said the demonstrators would continue to assist people without homes if they were swept from the park by the city.
One of the organizers at CHOP, David Lewis, said that the disbanding of the protest zone didn't mean an end to the protests.
"We are putting the O back in CHOP: organize," he said. "I want people to remember that CHOP was a movement that started on Capitol Hill. It was never about the location; it was about the movement."
Business owners and residents in the area had a mix of opinions; some were glad to see the protests broken up, while others thought it had been pretty groovy all in all. Sophia Lee, who lives a half-block south, said she agreed with the protesters' methods but thought the city's reaction was "not great," and added she didn't believe the protesters should be blamed for the violence:
Lee said the protest itself wasn't a nuisance to her but she noticed it attracted white supremacists and loud Christian evangelists who "were disruptive and competitive. That was one of problems with CHOP: It became a target."
Best, the police chief, said that she, too, supports the Black Lives Matter movement, but that CHOP had to stop:
"Our job is to protect and serve the community," she said. "Our job is to support peaceful demonstrations, but what has happened here on these streets over the last two weeks is lawless, and it's brutal, and bottom line, it is simply unacceptable."
Best said she will do the work of "re-envisioning public safety" in Seattle with community groups, the Community Police Commission, the department's Office of Police Accountability and the city's Office of Inspector General.
Police and city workers spent much of Wednesday clearing the area of barricades and artwork, and police checked the East Precinct building for "obstacles and other concerns," said Best, although the cop shop was not yet back in service yet.
Donald Trump, who had threatened last month to "do the job" of ending the protests himself (possibly with napalm and stealth bombers) if local officials didn't, had nothing to say Wednesday about the police action in Seattle, possibly because he was too busy tweeting out fear videos about scary Black people tearing down statues and calling plans to paint "Black Lives Matter" on New York's Fifth Avenue a "symbol of hate." And Fox News capped the day with a column explaining there was never any such thing as peaceful protest at CHOP, because murder, murder, murder. (Again, no arrests, no suspects. If protesters are shown to have been responsible, we'll let you know.)
Thank goodness everything's back to normal and with the police back in charge, there'll be no more crime in Seattle.
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