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Reports of extortion within the Capital Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP), formerly known as the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone, emerged last week. These claims were noted but then dismissed by Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, due primarily to the fact that there had been no official reports from businesses detailing the abuse. However, a closer investigation into the CHOP paints a very different picture.
Interviews with local business owners and hired security companies conducted by The Post Millennial have revealed that the conditions for businesses and residents in the CHOP are not as peaceful as the mainstream media would have you believe.
"I'm scared to live here. It's just not conducive," one resident said to King 5 News. "What you want from a home is a stress-free environment. You want to be able to sleep well, you want to feel comfortable and we just don't feel comfortable right now."
One business owner called it an “Invasion of a neighborhood by people who don’t pay rent and are taking away the rights of people who live and work there.”
There is now a video also of one of the speakers at CHAZ telling all the white people in the crowd to give every black person $10 and that he is remembering faces of who is there.
That owner went on to say that they enjoy protesting for a good cause and believe it is a great way to express the First Amendment. However, the owner notes that a customer’s car was broken into this week and business is down because customers do not want to come to the area. “It’s all anyone talks about and it is affecting the atmosphere in a negative way.”
Other stores are faring better through the occupation. “If you sell beer, cigarettes and tacos you are doing ok. But even businesses that are doing better have more theft and vandalism so net they are down," the owner told The Post Millennial.
This business owner claimed that they were threatened. They were called “racist” if they did not post Black Lives Matter signs in their windows and threatened with having their storefront windows broken. He noted that this happened to other businesses as well. It was reportedly a white activist who made these threats.
The shakedowns of businesses and the fear instilled in residents of the occupied area are proceeding apace, despite there being no clear leadership structure.
Militant anarchists are among the many, factioned groups controlling the CHOP, and the occupation appears to have dismissed law and order for a society in line with their anarchist vision.
It is not clear if those the city is negotiating with represent all the interests in the CHOP. However, with police forces out of the area, what is clear is that no one is handling crime or reports thereof. When the city tried to put up barricades that would both cordon off the CHOP and allow emergency vehicles through, CHOP activists quickly made roads again impassable.
However, a post circulated online by a business owner claiming to be from inside the CHOP said that they were being asked to pay $500 in “protection money”.
Although SPD has denied claims of extortion, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best did say that “Rapes, robberies and all sorts of violent acts have been occurring in the area and we’re not able to get to [them]” and that 911 response times have jumped from five to 18 minutes.
Sunday night Richard Hanks allegedly broke into Car Tender auto repair, located a block away from the CHOP, and attempted to set the building on fire. Though the owners detained him, they were forced to release him when SPD did not arrive to take custody. According to a police report Mason Mcdermott one of the owners was told by 911 that dispatch could not send in officers. Meanwhile hundreds of CHOP occupiers arrived at the auto shop attempting to “free” Hanks. They knocked down the fence of the business.
Iconic Global, a local security company offered their services to Car Tender following the incident. Monday they discovered and AK 47, multiple magazines, fireworks and material for making explosives in the bushes surrounding the shop. Iconic also prevented two other break-in attempts at the location and another nearby business. Hanks has since been arrested, and was charged.
Another nearby business owner had a sign offering a discount to police and fire fighters. The owner claims that an occupier yelled at him until he took it down. It is no surprise that SPD is now walking back claims of extortion on businesses and asking for people to report incidents to 911 given that every witness interviewed for this piece wished to remain anonymous fearing retaliation.