SEATTLE, WA—On Monday, June 8, the several-block-large Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) was self-declared in Capitol Hill, after the Seattle Police Department (SPD) abandoned the area’s East Precinct building.
The zone has street art painted on roads and buildings, and various facilities like stages, relaxation spaces, and a shop with free goods have been established.
“You should know leaving the precinct was not my decision,” said SPD Chief Carmen Best in a leaked video address to officers. “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 us and our community.”
“Ultimately, the city had other plans for the building and relented to severe public pressure. I’m angry about how this all came about.”
Contrary to Best’s claim that the city made the decision to leave alone, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said that they were working together “and listening to [the] community to understand how we can continue to build trust between our Seattle Police officers and the community around the East Precinct.”
Best told KIRO7 that “rapes, robberies, and all sorts of violent acts have been occurring in the area and we’re not able to get to [them], so it is not right for us to not be able to deploy our officers here.”
There have also been reports of armed protestors patrolling the zone and extortion of businesses.
Durkan Tweeted that CHAZ “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.”
“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,” she added. “Cal Anderson and Capitol Hill [have] for decades been a place for free speech, community, and self expression.”
Durkan also told CNN that CHAZ is “not an armed takeover, it’s not a military junta;” instead, “we’ve got four blocks in Seattle… that [are] more like a block party atmosphere.”