Dismantle CHOP – An Ode To CHOP
After the Seattle police departed the East Precinct, Capitol Hill residents were faced with a novel challenge. How can a community made up of affluent like-minded individuals possibly get by on their own without a 3-minute police response available 24 hours a day?
Actually, things went surprisingly well in the beginning. Residents rose up to the challenge, solving it in the Seattle way. Food was provided, diverse speakers spread their messages, and the free camping was popular. Crowds upon crowds of people showed every day up to see what was going on, and maybe learn something new.
However things took a turn for the worse, ultimately resulting in some violent altercations. As of early morning on July 1st, based on an executive order from Mayor Jenny Durkan, the Seattle Police came to dismantle CHOP. In this article I recap some of the things I saw during CHOP’s brief existence.
Background And Genesis
CHAZ (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone) or CHOP (Capitol Hill Organized Protest) was formed following the protests in Seattle after the tragic death of George Floyd. The zone entailed a six block zone in the downtown Seattle neighborhood of Capitol Hill, that was established on June 8th 2020, when the Seattle Police departments (SPD) East Precinct building was abandoned. The zone ran east to west along East Pine Street from 10th to 13th Avenues East. Then on 12th Avenue East, the zone extended down to East Pike Street.
The Name Change
CHAZ first gained the attention of the mainstream media with a sign that stated “You Are Now Leaving The USA”. The sign disappeared a few days later. Leaders of the movement indicated that anyone could of put this up, and it did not necessarily represent the intentions or demands of CHAZ. The name changed from the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) to The Capital Hill Organized Protest (CHOP). The purpose of the rebranding was to get the narrative back on track towards the original purpose of the protest, a narrative that had become distorted by the media.
Is This A Block Party?
The public had one question all along. Was the autonomous zone an area of chaotic, anarchy? Or more like a beautiful, summer street festival? The conservative media reported it one way, and the liberal media another. The reality was somewhere in between. It resembled a mix of a block party, with the resources and organization of a homeless encampment. Most folks were peaceful, but there was incidents of disturbing violence. The disruption to the residents and business was real, as was the noble intention of some of the protesters in pushing for police reform.
But What About The Message?
A lot of folks reached out to me with concern: Did the happenings at CHOP serve to dilute the original message of the protests? Personally I don’t think so. Imagine touring a frozen pizza factory. The goal is to make pizzas, but depending on where you look you might just see pallets of flour, or basil, or tomato sauce, or maybe even a break room or parking lot.
Just because you’re standing in the middle of the action doesn’t mean that the goal has been forgotten. Pizza factories make pizzas, and CHOP successfully sent a message that echoed around the world. If anything, CHOP was a rare opportunity for the general public to get involved at a whole new level.
Seattle Police Dismantle CHOP
After weeks of reported robberies and violence, early morning on July 1st, the Seattle Police came to dismantle CHOP. The Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an executive order for the protesters to be vacated from this area. This was a surprising move by the mayor who spent the previous weeks supporting the protest, referring to it as a “Summer of Love”. The executive order came a few days after Capitol Hill residents and businesses filed a class action lawsuit against the city for the “extensive hard” imposed by CHAZ. Donald Trump had tried to encourage Jenny Durkan to break up the described anarchy weeks ago, but no action was taken.
On Wednesday morning the police armed in riot gear to protect themselves, began clearing out the area at 5am. Arrests were made for failure to disperse, obstruction, and resisting arrest. Equipment was brought in to remove the barricades and start the process of cleaning the area. Significant repairs and graffiti removal will have to be made in the coming weeks.
Located in the heart of the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle, thirsty CHOP visitors had a ton of options for drinks and snacks. However a residential lockdown order meant that some of these establishments were not open at the time. In this article I explore some of the bars that were available to CHOP patrons.
Protesting is hard work, and hard work makes you hungry. Fortunately, Capitol Hill is home to some of the best restaurants in Seattle. In this article, I explore some of my favorite hangouts for a good burger or a late night burrito after drinking. Don’t worry, I got those on a budget covered as well.
Are there toilets in CHOP? Do people have guns? What currency is accepted? I received a ton of questions about CHOP and I did my best to answer them.
One of the most unique features of CHOP was the food supply. Released from the burden of regulations, and representing a brave new world of social ideals, food was made available to CHOP residents and visitors for free.
Amazing these free food stalls were able to coincide with regular capitalist restaurants and food carts without issue. Despite my initial doubt, the No Cop Co-Op was well-stocked with food at all times. It seems like there is something to be said for this unique economic model.
What’s Next? CHOP 2.0?
It is hard to say. 2020 has been a year for the records books. For now the City of Seattle has decided to dismantle CHOP. But who knows what is in store for the future? Police reform is very much still top of mind. So I will never say never for the return of CHOP 2.0. Until that time, go enjoy the summer.