I’m a bit grumpy today—who isn’t getting peevish during lockdown—and so I’m going to question what the bloody hell is going on in Seattle, where protestors (Antifa, BLM activists, and assorted anarchists and hangers-on) have occupied a six-block area in a prime bit of real estate in the downtown are. The occupied bit is now called the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ, and the cops have abandoned the area, leaving the protestors to control it and all businesses in the area, which are mostly closed and boarded up. The occupation is proceeding with the tacit cooperation of the city, which not only provides accoutrements to the protestors, but keeps the police out—except in the two instances where there were shootings, with one person being killed.
CHAZ would seem to be what this country would look like if the young Woke took over, and it’s not that pretty, as detailed in the two articles below (click on the screenshots). During the day it’s peaceful, and there are “indigenous gardens” and, as Andy Ngo details, even acts of kindness. At night, though, things change: as “Simple Justice” and Andy Ngo report, things get darker, with fights, armed patrols roaming the area, shootings, and bullying.
The New York Times: reported on the daytime “party atmosphere” of the area, much like what I remember in the Sixties at People’s Park in Berkeley:
What has emerged is an experiment in life without the police — part street festival, part commune. Hundreds have gathered to hear speeches, poetry and music. On Tuesday night, dozens of people sat in the middle of an intersection to watch “13th,” the Ava DuVernay film about the criminal justice system’s impact on African-Americans. On Wednesday, children made chalk drawings in the street.
The Times piece was published before the two shootings that took place on Saturday, with a 19-year-old being killed (I can’t find a NYT report on the shootings). As the Washington Post reported more recently:
The Seattle Police Department said in a statement that officers initially had trouble getting to the scene of the shooting because they “were met by a violent crowd that prevented officers safe access to the victims.” The police officers’ entry into the zone, filmed by people occupying it, didn’t appear to show violence.
Police said they are searching for the shooter or shooters and had no description or motive to share as of Saturday morning. Investigators gathered shell casings from the scene Saturday.
For if there’s any view of our future in CHAZ, it’s that the cops will be banned and there will be at least as much bigotry and divisiveness as we see in the greater society (Seattle is surely one of the most progressive cities in the U.S.).
And my question is this: why is Seattle allowing this to happen? Are they surrendering this area to the anarchists for good? Granted, I can understand why the cops would be reluctant to remove the protestors, since that might lead to a bloody confrontation given the guns in the hands of CHAZ’s occupants, but if we can’t count on Seattle to keep control of its city, who can we count on? If the protestors were peaceful, obeying rules of civil disobedience, and the cops could simply carry them away, that would be one solution, but can we count on either of these things?
I doubt it. At any rate, CHAZ gives us a peek into the kind of world that many of the extremist protestors really want. It’s not a world of simple protest and working for peaceful change and an end to racism, but a simple taking-over of society with no obvious coherent vision except getting rid of the cops. But that’s my petulant take, and readers may differ.
Here are two pieces (the first is less captious) on what’s going on within CHAZ. “Simple Justice” is a criminal defense-website. The article decries the mainstream media’s downplaying of the darker side of CHAZ—the weapons and the killing—and ends this way:
While the New York Times has had little to say about any of this, at least Vox has provided one of its “explainers.”
CHAZ has since evolved further into a center of peaceful protest, free political speech, co-ops, and community gardens. Protesters have invited the city’s houseless population, who had been subject to a mass “clearing” of tent communities throughout the city, to come stay in the neighborhood.
Sounds wonderful. Too bad for the dead kid.
This article from the New York Post is by Andy Ngo, a semconservative reporter. He may be overemphasizing things; I just don’t know, but even if he’s exaggerating a bit, it’s at least one reporter’s view of what it’s like to be inside CHAZ both day and night. Have any mainstream media sent a reporter in that way? I think that would be important, for her is instantiated, at least in incipient form, the kind of society the Young Woke (who are increasingly running the NYT and the Washington Post) envision.
I give some quotes from Ngo’s piece below (click on screenshot to read it):
On June 8, Seattle police frantically loaded what they could from the east precinct onto trucks and cars. Within hours, they boarded up and abandoned the station. That night, left-wing protesters from Black Lives Matter and Antifa declared ownership of the six-block neighborhood in the middle of the Pacific Northwest’s largest city. They named their new territory the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone,” or CHAZ. No laws or rules applied here except for one: “No cops allowed.”
During five undercover days and nights in the zone, I witnessed a continuing experiment in anarchy, chaos and brute-force criminality. In order to avoid being exposed as a journalist — several reporters have been barred or expelled — I slept and showered outside the zone. (Those inside have no showers but they do have portable bathrooms.) I took meals, and most of my water breaks, elsewhere because I was reluctant to remove my mask and risk being recognized. Every day I entered the zone twice through its semi-porous borders — once in the early afternoon, and again after sundown, staying until the wee hours.
. . . CHAZ occupants, ranging from several hundred to 10,000 depending on the day, with many openly armed, control all of the Capitol Hill neighborhood near downtown. The neighborhood is the heart of Seattle’s gay and counter-culture district, and is densely filled with businesses and apartment buildings. CHAZ now claims all of it.
. . . Despite the group’s link to violent extremism, its armed members were celebrated in the CHAZ for “protecting” the new denizens. The head of CHAZ’s security is a short female named “Creature.” She and the rest of her team communicate with walkie-talkie devices and earpieces. Some of them openly carry rifles, handguns, batons or knives. Their operating base is in the open-air eating section of the Rancho Bravo Tacos Mexican restaurant. Signs posted all over their base declares: “NO PHOTOS. NO VIDEOS.” Another sign lists Venmo names for donations.
. . .But at night, a whole different side of CHAZ emerges.
Lacking agreed-upon leadership, those who have naturally risen to the top have done so with force or intimidation. For example, rapper Raz Simone, real name Solomon Simone, patrols CHAZ on some nights with an armed entourage. Simone, originally from Georgia, has an arrest record for child cruelty and other charges. He usually conducts his patrols carrying a long semi-auto rifle and sidearm. Last weekend, a live stream recorded Simone handing another man a rifle from the trunk of a car.
Not everyone in CHAZ recognizes Simone’s police-like presence, but no one is willing to stand up to him and his group. There have been consequences to those perceived as challengers or threats. Independent Los Angeles-based journalist Kalen D’Ameida recorded Simone and his crew in the early hours of Monday morning. He was spotted by one of Simone’s men, who manhandled him and demanded he turn over his mobile device. Simone’s team chased D’Ameida and tried to drag him to the security tent. He escaped by hiding in a construction site outside CHAZ until police responded to his 911 call.
Those unfortunate enough to have homes or businesses within CHAZ — an estimated 30,000 residents — have no say over their new overlords. Residents have discreetly voiced their concerns to local media. Gunshots and “screams of terror” at night have been reported. A resident of an apartment building came out twice to ask protesters to leave the alley where the entrance is. They brushed him off.
Every business and property inside CHAZ has been vandalized with graffiti. Most messages say some variation of “Black Lives Matter” or “George Floyd,” but other messages call for the murder of police. Most businesses are boarded up. “ACAB” — all cops are bastards, an Antifa slogan — is written over them.
. . .Despite the pleas from those who live and work inside Capitol Hill for law and order to be restored, Seattle’s city council has determined that CHAZ should continue. On Tuesday, the city even provided upgrades to CHAZ, including street blockades that double as graffiti canvases, along with cleaning services and porta-potties.
It is difficult to decipher what CHAZ occupants want. Each faction, whether liberal, Marxist or anarchist, has their own agenda. But one online manifesto posted on Medium demands no less than the abolishment of the criminal justice system.
What will happen if demands aren’t met? Jaiden Grayson, a young black woman who has developed a large following in CHAZ, told a filmmaker: “Respond to the demands of the people or prepare to be met with any means necessary. … It’s not even a warning. I’m letting people know what comes next.”
CHAZ resembles People’s Park, an area of Berkeley designated for university student housing that was taken over by activists in April, 1969. After a few weeks, Governor (later President) Reagan sent in the National Guard and police, and they became violent, wielding billy clubs and guns, which they fired. One bystander was killed and 128 people hospitalized (one blinded by buckshot). After this confrontation in May, 1969, the area had a checkered history. I visited it two years ago since it is a bit of our National Sixties Cultural Heritage, and the place is still occupied by hippies and the homeless.
Is there a lesson for Seattle here? Well, don’t go sending in violent cops if you want to dismantle CHAZ, for that would be even worse since the Seattle protestors, unlike those in Berkeley, are armed. The occupants of CHAZ are explicitly anti-cop, and a forced removal of residents would create a bloodbath.
Is there a solution? I don’t know of one, but it cannot be the case that a city can surrender part of its jurisdiction to anarchists permanently. The residents of the area are scared, and the businesses in the area, and some around it, are closed. This was not the situation in Berkeley.
All I know is that I don’t want to live in a world that’s like CHAZ, regardless of its so-called “party atmosphere.”