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June 11, 2020

What is the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone “CHAZ” in Seattle?

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Protesters have set up a no-go zone after Seattle police withdrew from Capitol Hill. For the past eight days, the area around the US Capitol and the Seattle Police Headquarters has been the scene of protests and police brutality. Activists say more than 1,000 people, mostly young people of color, have declared themselves “autonomous zones” outside the city’s police department.

While city authorities may have expected the protesters to disperse at some point, many have taken to social media to express their support for preserving the autonomous zone. While residents and local politicians called for radical changes, the autonomous zones remained peaceful. Not just statewide, but globally, “Seattle City Councilman Kshama Sawant told the crowd Monday night.

The next night, Sawant, who describes himself as a socialist, held a public meeting in which he called on the city to oppose the police and ban tear gas in warfare.
On Monday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that East Precinct police would leave the area and reopen streets that had been closed for nearly two weeks. This was reported by local news channel MyNorthwest. Councilwoman Teresa Mosqueda also supported the effort, calling for a halving of the city’s police department budget. It wasn’t long before the so-called autonomous zone took shape on Capitol Hill.

A barrier originally erected by the police has been redesigned to define the boundary of the zone. Peaceful crowds continue to camp in the newly created Capitol Hill autonomous zone, while demonstrators from both police districts occupy the zones.

Durkan has faced increasing calls to resign from her position as the city’s police chief and from members of the Seattle Police Department.
Sawant, a staunch critic of the mayor, has blamed them for the cops’ violence and brutality against protesters and called for their resignation. Tuesday’s takeover of City Hall came just days after a Black Lives Matter group sued the city over the unnecessary violence police used against protesters in the city. On Monday night, Seattle police officers boarded their East Precinct, left the building and left after repeated clashes with protesters.

In their wake, protesters erected a barricade of barricades around the police building in the East Precinct of the Capitol. The neighborhood, which includes parts of the West End, South Lake Union and Westlake, used to be a flashpoint for protesters – skirmishes with police. The occupiers want to prove that the community can get along without police at all and that it is safe for the inhabitants.

The following day, three council members called on the mayor to resign, and police began removing belongings from the East Precinct police station, eventually opening the windows and leaving the building altogether. Demonstrators erected police barricades to erect a six-block perimeter around the surrounding area and form the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ). People on foot were able to move freely, but the barricade prevented cars from entering the area because of the crowds. The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone was founded by a loosely affiliated anarchist group from Seattle, which renamed the Seattle Police Department “Seattle People’s Department” with graffiti. The group, which claimed to be a coalition of anarchists, communists and other anti-police activists, released a map of the area known as the CapitolHill Aut Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), and the group called itself “Capitol Hill Anarchists” in reference to its name.

However, life in the CHAZ was not exactly utopian, and there were reports that news agencies were present in the city and that activists were extorting money from companies based in the zone. Organizers gave a lead and a critical voice to the protest movement, but it was believed that the newly proclaimed autonomous zone had been overrun by police.

The city government had not developed a strategic response to the takeover of the Capitol, and the city leadership was in chaos. The mayor had made the mistake of allowing himself and his team of policemen to be dictated to by a mob of 1,000 people.

Police officers in Seattle entered the city’s East Precinct on Monday night and left after repeated clashes with protesters. In their wake, the demonstrators erected an armed paramilitary barricade, which immediately sent the officers away. Police Chief Best dispatched senior police officers to the autonomous zone to establish communication channels, the officials said.

The area, which includes parts of the Capitol and East Precinct, has previously been a flashpoint for protesters – skirmishes with police.
In a brief 10-minute appearance before the media, Nollette said the SPD had not withdrawn any officers from the area, but merely removed the department’s visible presence in the administration building. The occupiers want to prove that the community can get along without police at all.

While Nolette’s words will hopefully be reassuring, CHS reports that calls for a protest zone have been rejected by officers. The deputy police chief reiterated the statement by the police chief and mayor that the FBI’s credible threat to burn the building led to the decision to lock it down and the safest plan was to secure the structure. The SPD says its officers accompanied the occupants, who were peaceful and did not warrant a police presence.

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