I’ve reported before on what happened during the recent troubles in Seattle (see here, for instance) , in which a six-block area of the downtown (renamed “CHAZ” or “CHOP”) was taken over by protestors and was abandoned by police, who wouldn’t respond to calls from within the area. Mayor Jenny Durtkan, too, refused to do anything, and even had concrete barriers and portable toilets brought in to reinforce the occupation. Roving groups of armed citizens policed the area, especially at night.
Eventually, the site was cleared by police after several shootings occurred, but things still aren’t back to normal: businesses are either shuttered or aren’t doing much trade, and a group of local businesses is suing the city for abandoning the district, leading to “enormous property damage and lost revenue.”
That revenue is estimated at about $200 million.
I still can’t completely fathom why the city didn’t stop this from the outset, but of course that might have led to immense violence. Still, citizens have to have some assurance that the rule of law will prevail and they will be protected by police. There are several stories in the article about how emergency calls involving looting and intimidation went unanswered by police, and of course the callers are angry.
Nevertheless, the people who were willing to be quoted blame the violence on Antifa, though I suspect that some have been intimidated into not saying anything about the involvement of Black Lives Matter. And remember, antifa is still a radical, left-wing group fighting for what they consider “a more just and equitable country.”
. . . Many are nervous about speaking out lest they lend ammunition to a conservative critique of the Black Lives Matter movement. In Portland, Elizabeth Snow McDougall, the owner of Stevens-Ness legal printers, emphasized her support for the cause before describing the damage done to her business.
“One window broken, then another, then another, then another. Garbage to clean off the sidewalk in front of the store every morning. Urine to wash out of our doorway alcove. Graffiti to remove,” Ms. McDougall wrote in an email. “Costs to board up and later we’ll have costs to repair.”
. . .Many of the business owners on Capitol Hill agreed: Much of the violence they saw and the intimidation of their patrons came from a group these business owners identified as antifa, which they distinguished from the Black Lives Matter movement. “The idea of taking up the Black movement and turning it into a white occupation, it’s white privilege in its finest definition,” Mr. Khan said. “And that’s what they did.”
Antifa, which stands for anti-fascist, is a radical, leaderless leftist political movement that uses armed, violent protest as a method to create what supporters say is a more just and equitable country. They have a strong presence in the Pacific Northwest, including the current protests in Portland.
There’s a great deal of description of the destruction and intimidation that went on there, though I’m surprised it took the NYT too long to describe it (of course, I’m a critic of their overly poltiicized reporting):
Across from Cafe Argento is a funky old auto repair shop called Car Tender run by John McDermott, a big soft-spoken man. On June 14, Mr. McDermott was driving his wife home from their anniversary dinner when he received a call from a neighbor who saw someone trying to break into his shop.
Mr. McDermott and his 27-year-old son, Mason, raced over. A man who was inside the shop, Mr. McDermott said, had emptied the cash drawer and was in the midst of setting the building on fire. Mr. McDermott said he and his son wrestled the man down and planned to hold him until the police arrived. But officers never showed up. A group of several hundred protesters did, according to Mr. McDermott, breaking down the chain-link fence around his shop and claiming that Mr. McDermott had kidnapped the man.
“They started coming across the fence — you see all these beautiful kids, a mob but kids — and they have guns and are pointing them at you and telling you they’re going to kill you,” Mr. McDermott said. “Telling me I’m the K.K.K. I’m not the K.K.K.”
The demonstrators were livestreaming the confrontation. Mr. McDermott’s wife watched, frantically calling anyone she could think of to go help him.
Later, Mr. McDermott’s photo and shop address appeared on a website called Cop Blaster, whose stated aim is to track police brutality but also has galleries of what it calls “Snitches” and “Cop Callers.” The McDermotts were categorized as both of those things on the website, which warned they should “keep their mouths shut.”
Nice business here. Too bad if anything should happen to it! The whole episode is unfortunate, involving coercion, violence, and destruction—features that I’ve always decried as maladaptive tactics if you want to appeal to the public’s sense of justice. (I’m pretty much a nonviolence kind of guy.) And Trump sure made hay of it! In general, I don’t think the occupation, or the city’s refusal to do much about it for a while, helped the cause of either civil rights or the Democratic Party. In the meantime, business owners (many of them minorities) are still suffering, yet the mayor has a sunshine-y take on it:
These days, storefronts in the neighborhood remain boarded up, covered in Black Lives Matter signs and graffiti. Demonstrators still hold evening protests, albeit smaller and quieter than before. But the businesses remain on edge.
“This is an ongoing crisis,” Mr. Donner said on Tuesday [Donner is owner of a factory in the area who had to negotiate for access to his business, and whose calls to the police went unheeded). “Protesters are apparently staying until they get some of what they want. No one knows what level of city cooperation will be enough for them.”
But the area is slowly going back to its old normal. The park and playing fields have been cleared, and police officers have returned to the streets. An apartment building that opened earlier this summer is finally attracting prospective tenants.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Durkan did not comment on the lawsuit but acknowledged frustrations from small businesses.
“Many who live and work in Capitol Hill and other parts of the city continue to witness daily protests that are rightly demanding an end to systemic racism,” she wrote. “In some circumstances, businesses and residents have faced property destruction in the last two months.”
She encouraged the businesses to file claims.
Finally, as I’ve said before, the demonstration was largely in the service of the “defund the police” movement, and apparently some defunding is happening. Whether or not this is wise is simply above my pay grade, but I’m adamantly against the dissolving of police departments in favor of local militias or of social-service workers who are said to be able to “replace” the police.
In the wake of the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, the Black Lives Matter movement is calling to defund the police, arguing that the criminal justice system is inherently racist.
Leaders in many progressive cities are listening. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a plan to shift $1 billion out of the police budget. The Minneapolis City Council is pitching a major reduction, and the Seattle City Council is pushing for a 50 percent cut to Police Department funding. (The mayor said that plan goes too far.)
Some even call for “abolishing the police” altogether and closing down precincts, which is what happened in Seattle.