The liberation of the CHOP, Seattle's autonomous occupied zone, finally commenced this week. As the police pushed occupiers out of the area, acting under an emergency order from Mayor Jenny Durkan, they found spike strips, knives, and made over 40 arrests of those who would not give up their dream of an occupied utopia in downtown Seattle. Residents and businesses in Capitol Hill lived without police for 3 weeks and the crime rate spiked 250 percent.
Hours later the area was finally peaceful, although the mainstream media for has been portraying it as such since the beginning, despite the murder of two teens that took place within the zone. Aside from the police standing at intersections, there were only a few of us standing in the six block area formerly known as CHOP.
The beautiful and relatively new turf fields of Cal Anderson Park were cleared, and the makeshift operations areas for CHOP removed. The homeless tents where I saw open air drug use just days before are gone, as are are the slogans drawn out with tape on the field.
A set of bleachers sat center field and a sculpture of the fist of the Black Lives Matter movement was propped up against a backstop. Aside from those items and some police caution tape, it could have been just a normal night in Capitol Hill, where kids have just finished a game and gone home for supper.
Behind the park, the field which had become an armed homeless encampment has been removed, along with the city provided sanitation facilities. The occupiers' garden— which was barely enough to provide a small side salad for one— has been removed, though Parks and Rec. has promised to find a new location for the plants.
A lone protester behind argues with a police officer to try to gain access to the area. The SPD, however, isn't having it. Officers ask passersby to identify themselves, many of whom thank the officers for their work.
Mayor Jenny Durkan promised to preserve the Black Lives Matter lettering that runs down the center of the street, but traffic will, in time, have it's say.
One, lone group of protestors remains. Approximately 40 protesters stand chanting “Who’s streets? Our streets!” But they've been returned to the public by now, taken back from the occupiers, and now available to all.
The East Precinct was transformed, the graffiti scrubbed off. SPD personnel could be seen repopulated the building with gear. The sign on the building has reverted back to that of the Seattle Police Department.
Residents of Capitol Hill appeared liberated, out walking their dogs, smiling at each other, pleased to be able to walk their streets without the fear that was visceral over the last few weeks.
Across the country protesters and rioters continue to call for the defunding and abolishment of police departments, but the residents of Capitol Hill know intimately what that looks like, and it wasn't great.
The majority of Capitol Hill residents voted for Kshama Sawant, the City Council Member who led her merry band of occupiers to lay claim to downtown Seattle, but one wonders if they would make that choice again.
The occupation tragically took the lives of two teen boys and injured others. Those who want to see these kinds of occupations happen in more cities should ask Seattle's Capitol Hill residents about their businesses being robbed and buildings being vandalized. Hundreds of thousands of calls to 911 that went unanswered, those are emergencies untended. They should ask them about occupiers under the influence running around waving pipes and machetes and the armed guard harassing anyone they deemed unwelcome.
Later that night, after the area was cleared and residents got their city back, protesters, occupiers, Antifa militants who left the area came back to pick a fight with police. Some of those protestors were reportedly heading back to the mayor's residence as well. Meanwhile, Seattle City Council voted to cut police funding.
Protestors also marched around the SPD's West Precinct, which houses the 911 call center for the entire city. This was as part of the “Day of Rage” against SPD and Israel. George Floyd's name may have been mentioned, but it was Israel and the police that were the target. It is as yet unknown what part Israel had to play in the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25.