The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) also known as Free Capitol Hill or the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) was established on June 8th 2020. This is a six block zone in the downtown Seattle neighborhood of Capitol Hill, that was established when the Seattle Police departments (SPD) East Precinct building was abandoned. The zone runs east to west along East Pine Street from 10th to 13th Avenues East. Then on 12th Avenue East, the zone extends down to East Pike Street.
I took to Reddit to round up all the questions on this new decentralized area, and then went to CHAZ (or CHOP) myself to investigate. Here is what I found out:
Is It Legal To Open Carry In Seattle?
Open carry of firearms is legal in the state of Washington. It’s not a total free-for-all, there are some restrictions. This Wiki article has some more information. Despite this I did not see any firearms when I visited CHAZ.
Anyway, there are over a half million active Concealed Pistol Licenses in the state. This represents approximately 10% of the adult population who are authorized to carry concealed weapons on their person. I’m not sure why anyone would open carry when this option is available.
Is CHAZ (CHOP) Actually Independent From The United States?
There is currently a lot of controversy around this aspect of CHAZ. Initially, there was a sign near one of the barricades that stated “You Are Now Leaving The USA”. This was picked up by the conservative media and turned into a joke. The reality is that is not clear who originally put up this specific sign. Also, it was never confirmed if the broader members of CHAZ agreed with this sentiment. Currently, the sign is no longer to be found. And the group has rebranded to “Free Capitol Hill” or CHOP.
How Much Is Rent In The Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) Zone?
Rent varies inside of CHAZ. Capitol Hill in general can be an expensive spot to live with 1 bedroom apartments starting at $1400. Currently, there is no rent being charged to setup a tent in Cal Anderson park. There were rumors that rent to stay in the Seattle Police East Precinct building was $11. To date, this has not been substantiated.
How Long Will CHAZ (CHOP) Last?
It depends on many factors. Will Donald Trump and the Federal government get involved? Will there be any violence in the future? How will the media (both the left and the right) continue to spin the situation? Will the residents of the area tire of noise? And last but not least, how long will the food last?
What Is The Plan For Food In CHAZ (CHOP)? Is It Sustainable?
Despite some silly rumors on the internet, there is in fact food available inside and outside of CHAZ. Inside CHAZ, the No Cop Co-Op and similar vendors offer food for free. Other vendors are selling things like hot dogs.
In addition, Capitol Hill is full of restaurants, both inside and outside of CHAZ. I compiled some recommendations for restaurants near CHAZ, check it out! There are also grocery stores nearby… Check out my other reviews on offbrandguy.com if you’re interested in saving money on groceries.
I have gotten many questions about the sustainability of making free food available in CHAZ. All I can say for sure is that all the vendors were very well stocked when I was there. Many do depend on donations, and I do suggest stopping by if you have anything to give.
Finally, there is much ado on the internet about farming in CHAZ. Some gardens have sprung up inside the zone, in addition to some freshly-planted trees throughout Cal Anderson Park. I’m no farmer but I think it’s clear that the park is not large enough to feed many people while also serving its role as, well, a park.
Are The Residents Of The Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) Zone Vegan?
There was an initial report that the residents of the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) Zone had requested that vegan meat substitutes and soy products be brought in. While this may be true, it does not necessarily represent the preferences of every member of CHAZ. The Rancho Bravo Mexican restaurant is within CHAZ borders and currently serves up delicious meat and veggies burritos. Plus conveniently, the medic station is located in the restaurants’s parking lot.
What Is The Healthcare Like In CHAZ (CHOP)?
There are medical tents scattered throughout CHAZ. Signs are inconsistent and I didn’t see any maps, but overall coverage seems as good or better than a typical music festival or block party.
I’m not sure what the capabilities of the medics are. At other festival-type events, medical staff are typically certified as nurses, EMTs, etc. It’s not clear if such certification is required or recognized in CHAZ. If you’re wary of “Off Brand” medical care, remember that CHAZ is pretty close to some of the best hospitals in the nation.
Where Do People Use The Bathroom In CHAZ (CHOP)?
This question keeps coming up again and again. Interestingly, the Seattle Department of Transportation brought Porta-Potties into CHAZ. At this point, it is assumed they will continue to perform the maintenance and upkeep to keep these working properly.
How Is The Rapper Raz Involved With CHAZ (CHOP)?
I received many questions about an individual named Raz and his involvement with CHAZ. Rumors online seem to claim that he provides security and possibly other services to CHAZ. There is some controversy about his actions, which I will not repeat here as it is largely unverified and overhyped.
I pulled up a picture of Raz and looked around to see if I could find him. However there were so many people around that it was a hopeless task. I didn’t see Raz and all I can report is that I’m skeptical about some of the controversial claims made about him.
Is COVID-19 A Concern In CHAZ (CHOP)?
Seattle was an early epicenter for COVID-19 in the USA. The region has been on lockdown since March. As of today, the number of active cases have been dwindling and the region is on the cusp of loosening restrictions.
The virus is thought to spread face-to-face, and it is absolutely concerning to have so many people gathered together, both in CHAZ and the other protests throughout the area. I noticed many people using PPE such as masks and even goggles. Many people are using hand sanitizer. There is limited sanitization available in the form of portable hand washing stations.
The use of PPE and other precautions might lessen the risk but honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if we see an increase in COVID-19 cases related to CHAZ and the protests.
Do Vendors Accept Payment In CHAZ (CHOP)?
In my visit to the No Cop Co-Op, I noticed that payment and even monetary donations were not accepted. This is not the case for all of the vendors. Many folks are accepting US Dollars in cash or via credit card and cash apps.
Why Is CHAZ being rebranded as CHOP?
The first part of this is the sign stating “You Are Now Leaving The USA” being removed. The second part is moving from the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone name to The Capital Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) name. The change follows the movement being picked and covered extensively by the mainstream media. The purpose of the rebranding is get the narrative back on track towards the original purpose of the protest, a narrative that has become distorted by the media.
What Happened To The “You Are Now Leaving The United States” Sign?
It is not known what happened to the controversial sign that received extensive media attention. Someone must of took it down.
Why Are There No Police In CHAZ (CHOP)?
The East Precinct is the smallest out of four Seattle police stations. It was the site of sustained protests and demonstrations which repeatedly escalated. Multiple people were injured, and many were subject to the effects of tear gas, OC spray, flash bangs, and various disruptions to daily life.
The Seattle Police Department (SPD) has boarded up the windows and left the East Precinct. It now bears the sign, “Seattle People Department” instead of “Seattle Police Department”. Unlike what happened in some other cities, this action was voluntary and peaceful. SPD continues to respond to 911 calls in the area.
How Big Is CHAZ (CHOP)?
I’m not sure how to pin down the size of CHAZ. The media reports “Six Blocks”. It seems to have engulfed Cal Anderson Park, Pine Street between Broadway and 13th, and parts of 10th Ave, 11th Ave, and 12th Ave. As far as I can tell, the borders are a little fluid and might change day-to-day. Rather than try to capture this in an article, when it will surely become outdated, I’d like to direct you to the CHAZ Reddit Page for recent updates.
How Do People Shower In CHAZ (CHOP)?
This is another question that came up again and again on Reddit. I mean the folks shower like people anywhere else, in showers. But the question is where are the showers when everyone is sleeping in tents. It is unknown how many people are full time residents of CHAZ, versus those that leave and come back. At this point, I assume some of the residents may leave to address basic hygiene needs. But this is still under investigation.
How Do Things Work Without Capitalism?
Some businesses within CHAZ continue to accept United States Dollars, but others have selected alternate economic models. It seems like you are encouraged to simply take what you need, when you need it. You are also asked to bring in donations, especially food, when you can. When I visited CHAZ all of the free food stands were well-stocked.
There appears to be some controversy around the use of free food. Should it be reserved for individuals who cannot afford food through other means? Or is it available to anyone who happens to be hungry? Even after carefully inspecting the various signs, the intent was not perfectly clear to me. Lively debate about this is occurring on Twitter, Reddit, and other social media platforms.
How Bad Is The Vandalism And Violence?
There is quite a bit of street art in CHAZ. Graffiti, some of it explicit, is all around. In addition there are things like memorials and protest signs. After getting over the initial shock I noticed that much of the graffiti is on plywood, mobile barriers, and other temporary materials. Nonetheless I expect there will be significant cleanup costs and it’s not clear who will pay them.
There is indeed some spray paint on buildings and structures, but not as much as you might expect. And I’m happy to report that I did not see any permanent damage to any buildings. There are, however, numerous damaged vehicles in the area. It’s not clear if that damage is related to CHAZ. I parked my Vespa several blocks away and it was not disturbed.
I did not witness any violence when I was in the area. There were some individuals I chose to keep my distance from for physical safety reasons. That is normal for Capitol Hill, even outside a pandemic. Overall the mood was much lighter and more relaxed than it was for the earlier East Precinct protests.