The “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ), a 6 block-radius in the city of Seattle, has been vacated by the police department and is being run by protestors. A banner reading “This space is now property of the Seattle people” hangs over the entryway of the former police station in the East Precinct. As riots and protests continue across the nation, there have been continued calls for the disbanding or defunding of police departments. The New York Times said of the zone, “What has emerged is an experiment in life without the police — part street festival, part commune.”
There are differing views from the Left. The City of Seattle has so far been cooperating with CHAZ in an effort to maintain peace and understanding. Demands from the people have varied, with lists including between three and 30 demands of the government. Some involved say it is not solely about race, but “class warfare,” similar to the Occupy Wall Street movement from 2011. Others noted the importance of staying focused on the issue at hand – racism – and said the time for other issues will come.
“We are trying to prove through action and practice that we don’t need [police] and we can fulfill the community’s needs without them.”John Moore
Garbage day, smoking zones, and medical stations have reportedly been established. A New York Times article wrote of community poetry readings, documentary viewings, and children’s chalk hour. One member noted that there was no sole leader, the ultimate goal varied from person to person, and she wasn’t sure if the idea would work. “But, I’m willing to see and find out,” she added.
The Right is critical of the zone. President Trump criticized Gov. Jay Inslee and Mayor Jenny Durkan, declaring “Domestic terrorists have taken over Seattle” and demanding they take back control of the situation. Seattle Police Department Assistant Chief Deanna Nollette said they have received reports from members of the community that barricades are stationed by “armed individuals running them as checkpoints into the neighborhood” and requiring ID from those entering. Those allowed to enter are “everyone who positions themselves for Black lives and against the police.” In addition to this, Nollette said they have heard reports of business owners in the CHAZ being threatened with extortion. Some have reported instances of self-proclaimed “leaders” trying to police the new zone.