SEATTLE — A militant group has occupied several blocks of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood since Monday, June 8 after the City of Seattle and the Seattle Police Department made the decision to vacate their East Precinct location and allowed the occupants to police the area after days of protests.
The block now called “CHAZ,” Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, is a “no-cop Co-Op” that is independently run by different anti-government groups. The group recently stated on Sunday that they will be changing their name to “CHOP”, Capital Hill On Protest, to dispel the negative connotation that’s been associated with the state.
Since SPD’s departure, individuals have begun terrorizing the area, destroying the police station along with damaging other businesses that lay within the neighborhood. Seattle Fire Department is reported to be nearby in case of a disastrous fire.
Seattle Chief of Police Carmen Best said in a public statement to SPD officers, “Leaving the precinct was not my decision. You fought for days to protect it. I asked you to stand on that line, day in and day out, to be pelted with projectiles, to be screamed at, threatened, and in some cases hurt, then to have a change, of course, nearly two weeks in. It seems like an insult to you in our community. Ultimately the city had other plans for the building and relented to severe public pressure.”
On Friday morning around 3 a.m., the East Precinct was set ablaze after a suspect lit the building on fire. Nearby individuals put the fire out before it was able to spread to other structures.
Other local businesses within the neighborhood have also been forced to closed their doors for services since the occupancy of CHAZ. A local Trader Joe’s closed their doors in concern to the recent activity that inhibits the area.
Best notes that action of the group include accounts of occupants demanding identification for residents and some form of payment from local businesses in exchange for protection, an illegal practice that Best recommends reporting to police, especially if any residents are threatened.
Makeshift barricades block some paths of entry into the neighborhood that are patrolled by armed guards. The area is decorated in murals on the buildings and offers occupants free food, water and other necessities that can be grabbed as needed. A long stretch of tents line sections of the sidewalk since occupants are encouraged to bring one for the demonstration as many have stayed overnight.
Confrontations within the occupied blocks are mainly handled by independent civilian volunteers. Group leaders can be seen in videos across social media self-policing the state, confronting individuals themselves when problems occur. Journalists covering CHAZ within the compound have come under siege by individuals within the group to the point where they are being chased by the co-op’s security while reporting.
On Sunday night, the group terrorized a local car repair shop, breaking down the gate that enclosed the building. The owner of the business, John McDermott, and his son initially caught the suspect trying to escape on foot after attempting to rob and set the shop on fire. McDermott said he tried calling law enforcement several times but none ever showed up. After hours of holding the suspect, a larger group of CHAZ occupants charged the business demanding the release of the individual at which point they broke down the gate, despite the suspect already being released by that point.
Seattle-based rapper Raz Simone is claimed to be the ‘warlord’ leader of CHAZ, being seen taking control of much of what happens within. It is important to note however that there is no clearly known leader within the co-op. According to Simone’s Twitter, he as well as other demonstrators assert that the mishaps within the compound are untrue and that occupants enjoy the police-free community as a place where they can express themselves freely. Organizers say they wish to turn the vacated police precinct into a community center that offers social and health services.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has been reluctant to use any sort of force to quell the tensions while voicing her support of the demonstration.
“The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone is not a lawless wasteland of anarchist insurrection—it is a peaceful expression of our community’s collective grief and their desire to build a better world,” said Durkan. ”Lawfully gathering and expressing First Amendment rights, demanding we do better as a society and provide true equity for communities of color is not terrorism—it is patriotism.”
President Donald Trump on the other hand has been critical of the anti-government state and challenged Durken to put an end to CHAZ.
“Seattle Mayor says, about the anarchists’ takeover of her city, “it is a Summer of Love.” These Liberal Dems don’t have a clue. The terrorists burn and pillage our cities, and they think it is just wonderful…Must end this Seattle take over now.”