‘Autonomous Zone’ Established by Seattle Protesters Demanding the Abolition of Police & the Court System
Do you support abolishing the police & the court system?
by Causes | 6.11.20
What’s the story?
- Anti-police brutality protesters in Seattle, Washington, have established a self-declared autonomous zone encompassing roughly six square city blocks in the Capitol Hill district. Protesters declared the autonomous zone on June 8th.
- Protesters erected barricades to block off traffic entering into what they have named the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ or Free Capitol Hill), with armed members of a self-described “anti-fascist, anti-racist, pro-worker community defense organization” providing security and reportedly requiring people entering the autonomous zone to show identification.
- The protesters gained control after the Seattle Police Department withdrew from the area and abandoned its East Precinct. Police and city officials are working to deescalate the situation peacefully, although given the protesters’ demands for the abolition of the Seattle Police Department & the court system, plus the mayor’s resignation (as expressed during a brief occupation of City Hall), it’s unclear whether they will be successful.
- A similar saga played out in the Pacific Northwest for 41 days back in 2016 at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural southeastern Oregon, when limited government militia members occupied the refuge in protest of federal land management policies.
What are the protesters demanding?
- The CHAZ protesters’ demands were published in a Medium post and fall into four categories related to the justice system, health & human services, economics, and education.
- The protesters “demand the abolition of imprisonment, generally speaking,” and naturalization services for all unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. And with respect to the Seattle Police Department & court system, the protesters are demanding complete the abolition of those entities (emphasis original):
“The Seattle Police Department and attached court system are beyond reform. We do not request reform, we demand abolition. 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.”
- The protesters “demand the de-gentrification of Seattle, starting with rent control” and free college:
“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 county.”
- Also among the protesters' list of demands are an insistence that healthcare providers “employ black doctors and nurses specifically to help care for black patients” and a demand that “the people of Seattle seek out and proudly support Black-owned businesses.”
What’s happening inside the autonomous zone?
- The barricaded borders of the CHAZ demarcate what has been declared a “Cop Free Zone” with no law enforcement presence permitted.
- There have been several free speech zones established, organized garbage collection, and protesters have screened films & held concerts. A “No-Cop Co-Op” has been distributing free food to all-comers.
- There have been numerous speeches given by organizers and sympathetic politicians, including City Councillor Kshama Sawant of the Socialist Alternative party, who reportedly pitched the protesters on a 50% cut to police spending because a full abolition wouldn’t be possible within a capitalist society.
- However, there have been some headwinds for the protesters, as one tweeted from an account (which has since been locked):
“The homeles [sic] people we invited took away all the food at the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. We need more food to keep the area operational. please if possible bring vegan meat substitutes, fruits, oats, soy products, etc. - anything to help us eat.”
- The Seattle Police Department has warned that there may have been efforts by CHAZ security to check people’s ID at entrances to the “Cop Free Zone”, in addition to relaying anecdotal reports that businesses in the area are being asked to pay a fee to operate:
“No one at these checkpoints has the legal authority to demand identification from anyone. We ask if anyone is subjected to these demands to call 911 and report the incident… We’ve heard, anecdotally, reports of citizens and businesses being asked to pay a fee to operate within this area. This is the crime of extortion. If anyone has been subjected to this, we need them to call 911.”
- An SPD spokeswoman said officers are still responding to priority 911 calls in the area but response times are slower due to the closure of the East Precinct, which the protesters have renamed the “Seattle People Department”.
What are they saying?
- Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (D) has taken several steps in an effort to deescalate tensions with the protesters, such banning the use of tear gas, and removing barricades at the East Precinct, requiring officers to use body cameras. Durkan hasn’t indicated whether she intends to resign, or pursue the abolition of the Seattle Police Department and the court system.
- In a Wednesday, June 10th press conference, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) replied to a reporter’s question about the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, “That’s news to me, so I’ll have to reserve any comment about that, I haven’t heard anything about that.”
- President Donald Trump weighed in Wednesday night, tweeting:
“Radical Left Governor @JayInslee and the Mayor of Seattle are being taunted and played at a level that our great COuntry has never seen before. Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will. This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stooped [sic] IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST!”
- Mayor Durkan replied with a tweet that read, “Make us all safe. Go back to your bunker. #BlackLivesMatter”
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Dllu / Creative Commons)
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