A group of protesters have taken over a six-block area in the city of Seattle and claimed it as a zone separate from the United States. The zone is the latest move in the protests and riots following the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a white police officer.
The area, claimed by Antifa and Black Lives Matter activists, is called the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), based on its location in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle. One of the leaders is thought to be Raz Simone, a rapper from the city.
Protesters had been active in the neighborhood for over a week and had clashed with police. The conflict was centred around the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct building. The city government told the police to fall back and the building was abandoned, so the activists built barricades and declared the area a police-free community.
What’s Going on Inside?
It’s not clear what’s actually happening inside CHAZ, since a lot of the news stories contradict each other. A sign on the abandoned police station says the building is “now the property of the Seattle people.”
Protesters put on a public movie night and concert. Food was also handed out at a “No Cop Co-op.” They may run into trouble when it comes to basic supplies, though, as occupants started asking for people on the outside to send donations of vegan foods. A small vegetable patch was planted in a park with donated plants.
Some have said that people with guns are patrolling the streets.
What Do They Want?
Not everyone in the zone may want the same thing. However, the leaders soon released a set of changes they want in society. Some are to do with getting more money to poorer people by putting controls on the price of rent.
Most of their goals are based on getting rid of the police. Some of their demands include:
- abolish the police and court system
- abolish prisons, especially youth prisons
- give a re-trial to all black people convicted of a violent crime
- give prisoners the right to vote
- give local communities the power to create their own anti-crime systems
Others demands are based on separating black and white Americans, with ideas such as black students being taught by only black teachers.
Responses to the new “country” have been mixed: Some have called it a paradise, while others say it’s a den of chaos.
President Trump called the occupiers terrorists and tweeted:
“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 [stopped] IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST!”
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan disagreed, saying:
“Unfortunately, our president wants to tell a story about domestic terrorists who have a radical agenda and are promoting a conspiracy that fits his law and order initiatives. It’s simply not true. Lawfully gathering and expressing first amendment rights, demanding we do better as a society, and providing true equity for communities of color is not terrorism. It’s patriotism.”
Will the White House step in to stop the “country,” or will it be allowed to continue?