FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 12, 2020
Seattle's 'Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone' makes national headlines amid differing views and names
SEATTLE — Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood remains in the national spotlight as demonstrations continue across Puget Sound, the country, and around the world.
The area around 12th and Pine is now known as the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" or CHAZ, and there's no timeline for when it might change or return to how it was before. Some are now calling the area CHOP, which stands for "Capitol Hill Organized Protest."
The Seattle Police Department's East Police Precinct is covered in graffiti, and just down the street artists have spelled out "Black Lives Matter" over close to an entire city block.
Inside Cal Anderson Park, numerous tents have been set up, and the voice of the Reverend Al Sharpton echoed blasted over a loudspeaker. It was, and is, at least during the day a festival-like atmosphere.
But the images emanating from the six-block area have sparked a national political discussion.
"We're not going to allow Seattle to be occupied by anarchists," bellowed President Donald Trump in an interview with Fox News this week.
"This is no different than ISIS taking over cities in the Middle East," argued Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in another Fox News interview.
"I think it may be a little bit of an exaggeration, but I will say having been on four combat tours in Afghanistan I saw a lot of parallels with the shadow government in those countries," said Jesse Jensen, a Seattle tech employee who is running as a Republican in the 8th Congressional District.
Jensen toured the area Friday, stopping and talking with people along the way. He acknowledged seeing peaceful protesters and troublemakers, as well.
"I saw a little bit of both, it's unfortunate," said the candidate for a district outside the city. "What's to prevent criminal elements from coming into those cities? The purpose of government is to provide life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, you can't do that if you're being extorted by armed gunmen."
Washington GOP Party Chair Caleb Heimlich also said he was concerned that Seattle's police chief was concerned about response time, and there was no plan for a resolution.
"There is, it is clearly not a beatnik festival or a farmers market. I mean, there are people erecting barricades, physically assaulting a reporter, video evidence of people with bats confronting someone saying you stole something," said Heimlich. "But I would not say they are ISIS level terrorists by any stretch. So, I think there's still a need to have some law and order in the city." He continued, "I think it's a national story because look if this were right-wing militia that had taken over six-wing blocks, the government response would have been entirely different."
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, in an interview with KING 5, expressed visible frustration over the vague future of the East Precinct.
"My goal is to have the officers back in the facility," said Best. She said a few officers had already made their way back inside, but for the most part, continue to operate outside of the CHAZ.
Mayor Durkan didn't provide any clues about what may be next, although as one person said he was "glad" the mayor saw the area first hand.
'J.D.,' as he called himself, stood in fatigues near the Black Lives Matter mural and said he was one of a handful of people who spoke with the mayor.
Shortly after the meeting, the city agreed to turn over a fire station in the Central District, for community use. It had been one of the demands made by CHAZ organizers, and other protestors.
"What I'm seeing right now, a lot of people witnessing a spectacle," J.D. said, pointing out the artwork, and the pop-up medical aid tents. "Don't ever forget this is a Black Lives Matter movement and protest."
As far as what's next?
"It's a day by day thing, it's a book that we're kind of all partaking in, and things aren't know what's on the next page, but even in the next paragraph," said J.D. when asked if the 'CHAZ' and the East Precinct could co-exist at some point, he replied, "Good question. Can it co-exist? I don't know."