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Seattle’s Hottest New Neighborhood Is The Capitol Hill Organized Protest

Inside an experiment in self-government.

Last updated on June 16, 2020, at 1:06 p.m. ET

Posted on June 14, 2020, at 2:09 p.m. ET

David Ryder / Getty Images

People paint an acronym for "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" near the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct in Seattle, June 10.

After more than a week of protests, which often escalated into violence by the police as they deployed tear gas and rubber bullets, the Seattle police department chose to abandon their East Precinct in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. On Tuesday, the department boarded up the building and left the neighborhood without a dedicated police presence. In response, protesters reversed the barricades, spray-painted “People” over “Police” on the precinct’s sign, and created Seattle’s hottest new neighborhood: the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (or CHAZ) — now CHOP, the acronym for Capitol Hill Organized Protest, which participants believe more accurately describes their movement.

While largely leaderless, and lacking a clear idea for its future, the CHOP has been characterized by a somewhat utopian response to autonomy: Free snacks are distributed throughout the neighborhood; there was a screening of 13th, a film by Ava DuVernay about the impact of the criminal justice system on Black people; and there are daily speeches and poetry recitals amid demands to abolish the police department, to drop charges against protesters, and for police brutality within the Seattle Police Department be investigated by the federal government.

Capitol Hill

Organized Protest

Broadway E.

13th Ave. E.

Cal

Anderson

Park

Muralists painted “Black Lives Matter” on the street here

E. Pine St.

E. Pike St.

Seattle Police Department

East Precinct

BuzzFeed News; Bing

BuzzFeed News; Bing
BuzzFeed News; Bing

The peacefulness of the protests and sense of calm throughout the six-block area hasn’t insulated it from criticism, as President Donald Trump called for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan to “take back your city NOW,” and threatened to intervene if local governments didn’t act. On Friday, the Seattle Times reported that Fox News had included heavily modified images of the neighborhood in a recent article that attempted to portray the area as far more dangerous and crime-ridden than reports on the ground suggest (Fox News has since apologized and added a disclaimer to the articles).

While Seattle police have been responding to 911 calls within the autonomous zone, it’s unclear when — and how — they will attempt to return to the precinct. So far, three demands have been spray-painted onto a wall by demonstrators, and 30 demands have been posted online.

Here’s a look at what life is like inside the #CHOP:

Karen Ducey / Getty Images

People hang out in the Conversation Café.

Jason Redmond / Getty Images

A shrine to George Floyd and others.

Elaine Thompson / AP

Protester Andrew Tomes adjusts umbrellas being used after a tarp was forgotten at a site supplying food and other essentials to demonstrators.

Jason Redmond / Getty Images

People photograph an image of activist Angela Davis displayed above the entrance to the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct, vacated June 8.

David Ryder / Getty Images

Signs hang on the exterior of the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct, June 9.

Jason Redmond / Getty Images

A protester uses a scope on top of a barricade to look for police approaching.

Jason Redmond / Getty Images

Seattle Police Assistant Chief Deanna Nollette and Assistant Chief Adrian Diaz are blocked by protesters from entering the Capitol Hill Organized Protest.

David Ryder / Getty Images

Barriers are seen on a street leading to the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct.

Jason Redmond / Getty Images

Police officers watch from a distance.

David Ryder / Getty Images

People watch a screening of 13th, a documentary film by director Ava DuVernay, in an intersection outside of the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct, June 9.

Jason Redmond / Getty Images

A mural of George Floyd

Jason Redmond / Getty Images

Mark Henry Jr. of Black Lives Matter addresses a crowd.

Jason Redmond / Getty Images

Rose H., who did not want to use her last name, says she came to "meet her neighbors and make sure their needs are met" in the Capitol Hill Organized Protest.

Jason Redmond / Getty Images

People register people to vote, June 12.

Karen Ducey / Getty Images

Artist Brian Culpepper sells his paintings.

Karen Ducey / Getty Images

A painted mural on Pine Street reading "Black Lives Matter" extends several blocks, June 12.

Update, June 15: Fox News has since apologized and added a correction to its articles.

Update, June 16: After the publication of this article, organizers changed the name to Capitol Hill Organized Protest, which participants believe more accurately describes their movement.


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