Here's what's happening at the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone

Jun 11 2020, 12:12 am

The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, also known as CHAZ, and formerly known as Free Capitol Hill, is a six-block space with no current police presence.

On June 8, after days of violent protests, the Seattle Police Department packed up their stuff, removed their barricades, and left the protesters to police themselves.

In a series of tweets, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan explained the removal of officers was an effort to “proactively de-escalate interactions between protestors and law enforcement outside the East Precinct.”

Since removing the officers from the East Precinct, the area has become a site of peaceful protests. On Twitter, the name Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone was thrown around and has stuck, often being referred to simply as CHAZ.

According to Reddit user houseplantshustla, who started a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” about CHAZ, no single person has stepped up and claimed the neighborhood. “People just gave it the name CHAZ after the Police left… it’s just a protest area that the Police left, then Twitter named it CHAZ after a few signs got put up.”

The area has since been plastered with murals, has hosted its own town halls, and has even held a movie night featuring the documentary 13th, which explores the history of race and the criminal justice system in the United States.

Here’s what it looks like inside CHAZ:

A letter of demands written by medium user FreeCapitolHill has been published for those wondering what the protesters are trying to accomplish. The list has been written by those hoping to “represent the black voices who spoke in victory at the top of 12th & Pine after 9 days of peaceful protest” and is based on the words used by protesters on June 8.

Here are a few of their demands as outlined by the letter:

  • We demand that the Seattle Council and the mayor defund and abolish the Seattle Police Department and the attached Criminal Justice Apparatus. This means 100% of funding, including existing pensions for Seattle Police. At an equal level of priority we also demand that the city disallow the operations of ICE in the city of Seattle.
  • We demand that the use of armed force be banned entirely. No guns, no batons, no riot shields, no chemical weapons, especially against those exercising their First Amendment right as Americans to protest.
  • We demand an end to the school-to-prison pipeline and the abolition of youth jails. Get kids out of prison, get cops out of schools.
  • We demand that not the City government, nor the State government, but that the Federal government launch a full-scale investigation into past and current cases of police brutality in Seattle and Washington, as well as the re-opening of all closed cases reported to the Office of Police Accountability.
  • We demand that the City of Seattle and the State Government release any prisoner currently serving time for a marijuana-related offense and expunge the related conviction.
  • We demand the de-gentrification of Seattle, starting with rent control.
  • We demand free college for the people of the state of Washington due to the overwhelming effect that education has on economic success, and the correlated overwhelming impact of poverty on people of color, as a form of reparations for the treatment of Black people in this state and country.
  • We demand the hospitals and care facilities of Seattle employ black doctors and nurses specifically to help care for black patients.
  • We demand that the city create an entirely separate system staffed by mental health experts to respond to 911 calls pertaining to mental health crises, and insist that all involved in such a program be put through thorough, rigorous training in conflict de-escalation.
  • We demand that the history of Black and Native Americans be given a significantly greater focus in the Washington State education curriculum.
  • We demand the City of Seattle and State of Washington remove any and all monuments dedicated to historical figures of the Confederacy, whose treasonous attempts to build an America with slavery as a permanent fixture were an affront to the human race.

A full list of demands can be found on the medium page.

The Office of the Mayor has since arranged for garbage cans and portable toilets to be placed in the vicinity for use by demonstrators. The Parks Department has also been deployed to help with garbage and debris clean-up, weeding and tree trimming, repair of damaged garden beds, and removal of graffiti at Cal Anderson Park. The Seattle Police Department will continue to answer 911 calls throughout the city, including those serviced by the East Precinct.

Daily Hive has reached out to the Seattle Police Department for comment.

Alyssa TherrienAlyssa Therrien

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