Protesters in Seattle, Washington, declared an area that includes the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct as the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” after Seattle Police and the National Guard pulled out of the region. The Precinct building appears empty, Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reported, and now the six-block region has been declared “autonomous.”
The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone isn’t a legal region or recognized by any government. It’s an unofficial name given by protesters who have vowed to keep the area peaceful.
Here’s what you need to know about the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ):
A Sign on One of the Blockades Says: ‘You’re Now Leaving the USA’
Protesters unofficially created the six-block Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone after police gave up their blockade of the East Precinct, Capitol Hill Seattle reported. People were told as the police were leaving that they were free to stay in the area and protest.
Law enforcement’s pullback was a surprise to many. Musicians, activists, poets and many others are now gathered in the area. A sign on one of the blockades as you enter the area reads: “You are now leaving the USA.” Another sign reads, “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.”
On Twitter, CodePink wrote: “Without the police, the zone has turned into a peaceful George Floyd memorial filled with art, positivity & love.”
The first movie night has already been held in the Zone, according to the Seattle Times. They played 13th, which Netflix called “director Ava DuVernay’s examination of the U.S. prison system … [and] how the country’s history of racial inequality drives the high rate of incarceration in America.”
Here are more photos:
In a tweet, Mayor Jenny Durkan said there are about 500 residential homes in the area.
Some of the current neighbors and former neighbors have tweeted that they are excited about the Zone.
Reddit users also reacted. Redditor OlinOfThePeople wrote: “It’s the same area where protests have been happening for 12 days. The only difference is there isn’t a swarm of cops doing nightly teargas raids. All this CHAZ stuff is just social media meming. You should check it out in person!”
People Are Creating Maps of the ‘Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone’
Although CHAZ isn’t a legally recognized area, people have created maps of it. This first map below appears on the new Wikipedia entry for the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. You can see the full map here. The map is listed with a CC BY-SA 4.0 Creative Commons license and, according to Wikipedia, was created by Mjychabaud22.
The area comprises about six blocks in Seattle and has a pink umbrella as its unofficial emblem, Capitol Hill Seattle reported.
Another map was shared by Chloe (@basicflowrrr), but it’s not clear who made the original version. This map was created on June 8 and was made before the area was called the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.” It notes events that were happening at the time and some parts may not be currently accurate.
This tweet shows another map:
And now a map exists on OpenStreetMap here. Another map of the Zone is below:
Another map from the Wikipedia entry, created by ThatGamingSheep, is below.
This Reddit post shares a preliminary map along with “expansion zones.”
You can see an archive from a parody Craigslist post offering to sell the East Precinct here.
Police Left the Region to ‘De-Escalate Interactions,’ the Mayor Said
Capitol Hill Seattle reported that an announcement was sent to Seattle police staff about closing the East Precinct building that read, in part: “The decision has been made to allow demonstrators to march past the East Precinct later today. Additional measures are currently underway to enhance our ongoing efforts to insure the security of our East Precinct and provide for the safety of all our officers. … The East Precinct will remain staffed.”
Durkan addressed the decision in a tweet: “In an effort to proactively de-escalate interactions between protestors and law enforcement outside the East Precinct, Chief Best and @SeattlePD officers have removed barricades surrounding the East Precinct while safely securing the facility.”
She went on to say that the Seattle Fire Department had vehicles nearby to help with any fires or medical needs.
She concluded, writing: “Keeping demonstrations peaceful must be a joint effort between our community members and law enforcement. I am hopeful that tonight, with these operational changes, our city can peacefully move forward together.”
Police Chief Carmen Best told KUOW in a press briefing on Monday: “We’re not going to evacuate or abandon the East Precinct. We will be hardening the East Precinct facility by boarding up the exterior windows, and applying fire retardant to the building exterior and installing fencing. … This is an exercise in trust and de-escalation.”
Durkan’s tweets were written around 1 a.m. on June 9. Soon, the removal of police barricades followed and protesters reworked the barricades left behind to block traffic from the area. They added “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” signs to some of the barricades.
Protesters Have Vowed to Stay Peaceful in the Autonomous Zone & Make It a Place of Positivity
A section in the Zone has already been designated the “Smoking Section,” with the words “Please Consider Ur Neighbors’ Health” written on the sign.
During a speech to a crowd of protesters in the region, KUOW reported that one person involved with the Zone said:
They’ve given us the precinct, and we’ve got to be smart, and we have to work together. And we have to remain peaceful, and we have to remain strong. This is the message that we are trying to deliver. That if they give us the precinct, we’re not going to try to destroy it. We’re not going to do what they want us to do. … We’re going to take care of it, because this is our street.
One person on Twitter said that CHAZ had “food, security, bathrooms, art, love, public discourse, action, education, film viewing, and much needed community building.”
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