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Will Seattle's local media ever accurately report on riots and chaos in embattled city?

The failed Capitol Hill Occupied Protest in Seattle could be viewed as a cautionary tale, but local Seattle media outlets and politicians still have their heads in the sand.
Ari Hoffman Seattle, WA

In the wake of the "defund the police" movement across the country, people may be finally waking up to the ramifications of what that would really and painfully look like in practice. The failed Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) in Seattle could be viewed as a cautionary tale, but local Seattle media outlets and politicians still have their heads in the sand.

On Friday, The New York Times published an article entitled "Abolish the police? Those who survived the chaos in Seattle aren't too sure." The article describes what happened to businesses and residents in Seattle during the occupation. Even though the occupied protest was shut down over a month ago, I say better late than never.

Nellie Bowles of The New York Times made the trip to Seattle and interviewed business owners and residents in the former CHOP.

This same area where five people were shot and two African American teenagers were killed was described by the Seattle Times as "A mix of block party, street protest and unsanctioned graffiti gallery, the area around the East Precinct has remained largely peaceful since police left, though a few people had been spotted carrying long rifles."

The Seattle Times described CHOP "warlord" Raz Simone, who was caught on camera assaulting people in the CHOP and handing out AR-15's to anyone who wanted one from out of the back of a Tesla as: "Musician Raz Simone, emcee of the free speech circle at 12th and Pine on Tuesday, called for long-term occupation. 'This is not Coachella,'" Simone said, but an opportunity for demonstrators to make it what they want. "Bring your sleeping bags and tents. We here."

The Seattle Times continued by saying "Neighbors living on Capitol Hill said Tuesday's relative calm was a welcome reprieve" but failed to mention the ongoing violence.

In The New York Times article Bowles described the plight of residents, some of who are now suing the city: "Matthew Ploszaj, a Capitol Hill resident, is one of the complainants. He said his apartment building, blocks from Mr. Khan's shop, was broken into four times during the occupation. The Seattle Police were called each time and never came to his apartment, according to Mr. Ploszaj. When he and another resident called the police after one burglary, they told him to meet them outside the occupation zone, about eight blocks away. He and other residents spent nights at a friend's house outside the area during the height of the protests."

CHOP activists claimed that businesses were thriving and yet business owners told The Post Millennial, and eventually The New York Times when they got around to asking, a very different story: "Very few people braved the barricades set up by the armed occupiers to come in for his coffee and breakfast sandwiches. Cars coming to pick up food orders would turn around. At two points, he and his workers felt scared and called 911. 'They said they would not come into CHOP,'" said Mr. Khan, referring to one of the names that protesters gave to the occupied Capitol Hill area. "It was lawless."

The Seattle Times wrote articles praising a BLM mural, trying to shift the narrative from the violence inside the CHOP. This while crime had skyrocketed 250 percent in the area including rapes and robberies, 911 was being inundated with hundreds of thousands of calls and police were helpless to respond.

Bowles continued: "The employees of Bergman's Lock and Key say they were followed by demonstrators with baseball bats. Cure Cocktail, a local bar and charcuterie, said its workers were asked by protesters to pledge loyalty to the movement: 'Are you for the CHOP or are you for the police?' they were asked, according to the lawsuit. The business owners also found that trying to get help from the Seattle Police, who declined to comment for this article, made them targets of activists."

The Seattle Times denied that businesses were being extorted, threatened or damaged and even tried to paint The Post Millennial and others as liars for citing sources inside the CHOP confirming the alarming reports. These stories were revised several times by the Seattle Times before eventually being removed. The false narratives, even accusing others of lying, while businesses and residents of their city was under armed occupation, displays the journalistic malpractice of the Seattle Times.

The Seattle Times narrative continued to collapse as more video was posted of violence inside the CHOP, including an attack on an auto repair shop: "They started coming across the fence—you see all these beautiful kids, a mob but kids—and they have guns and are pointing them at you and telling you they’re going to kill you," Mr. McDermott said. "Telling me I’m the KKK. I’m not the KKK." The demonstrators were live streaming the confrontation. Mr. McDermott's wife watched, frantically calling anyone she could think of to go help him."

The New York Times continued: "Later, Mr. McDermott's photo and shop address appeared on a website called Cop Blaster, whose stated aim is to track police brutality but also has galleries of what it calls 'Snitches' and 'Cop Callers.' The McDermotts were categorized as both of those things on the website, which warned they should 'keep their mouths shut.'"

Perhaps the most surprising part of The New York Times article, was its acknowledgment of what those on the ground have known the whole time, the threat from Antifa. "Antifa, which stands for anti-fascist, is a radical, leaderless leftist political movement that uses armed, violent protest as a method to create what supporters say is a more just and equitable country. They have a strong presence in the Pacific Northwest, including the current protests in Portland."

Local politicians were no better than media outlets. Seattle city council member Teresa Mosqueda praised Antifa and even dressed her newborn in an Antifa onesie. When questioned about the occupation in a CNN interview, Mayor Jenny Durkan speculated that "We could have the Summer of Love." Durkan even defended the occupation on Twitter as "a peaceful expression of our community's collective grief and their desire to build a better world."

Mayor Durkan eventually changed her tune after rioters showed up to vandalize her home. Mere days later the CHOP was cleared. According to the Washington Times, even Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, "the man who just a couple of weeks ago was tear gassed while marching with demonstrators against the federal courthouse, is now urging demonstrators to stay home and has ordered city police to do 'whatever is necessary' to quash ongoing violence. That apparently includes the same tear gas he railed against when federal officers were using it."

As violence continues across the country and cities like New York and Chicago reveal record numbers of shootings and crime, is the rest of the country finally waking up to the danger of the defund the police movement? When will the Seattle Times and local officials stop placating criminals and realize the same?

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Ari Hoffman
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