Seattle’s ‘occupied’ CHOP zone features a fleet of tents, a street renamed after George Floyd, an abandoned police building covered in Black Lives Matter slogans – and an armed man carrying a coffee cup.
The encampment known as the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest is hailed by its supporters as an ‘ideal society’ where people help each other with food and medical care, but derided by Donald Trump as the home of ‘thugs and anarchists’ which he has threatened to dismantle with federal forces.
Protesters and activists declared a ‘police-free’ zone in the several-block area after clashes with cops who tear-gassed people protesting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month.
Pictures from inside the zone show how protesters have put their stamp on the area by redesignating Pine Street as George Floyd Way and covering the empty police building with Black Lives Matter materials.
One man was yesterday seen walking the streets with a firearm in a holster as Seattle’s mayor Jenny Durkan faces mounting pressure to crack down on the ‘occupation’.
Durkan said on Monday that officials would move to wind down the protest – also known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ.
A car is parked near a tent city in the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest or CHOP in Seattle where protesters have been camped in the wake of the anti-racism protests triggered by the death of George Floyd
Protesters have put their stamp on the ‘occupied’ area by redesignating Pine Street as George Floyd Way, in honor of the black man whose death after being pinned down on the neck by a white cop in Minneapolis triggered global outrage
A man was seen with a firearm in a holster in the protest zone yesterday as the mayor of Seattle comes under mounting pressure to move against the protesters, including from Donald Trump
A woman wearing a mask walks past tents outside the abandoned police building in Seattle’s Capitol Hill Occupied Protest
Donald Trump last night told his Fox News ally Sean Hannity: ‘If they don’t do something with Seattle, we’re going to do that – we’re going to go in there.’
Trump also tweeted yesterday: ‘When are the thugs, looters, and anarchists moving out of the so-called “Autonomous Zone” in Seattle? Get going!’.
The protesters yesterday gave a press conference saying they were ‘fighting for equality and human rights including those of Indigenous peoples, immigrants, LGBTQ+ communities and the differently-abled’.
Naudia Miller of Black Collective Voice said people had camped in the park, grown gardens and provided food, security and medical care for each other after police left the East Precinct last Monday.
‘The truth is even if they force activists out of CHOP it will not stop us or this movement,’ Miller warned at Thursday’s press conference.
The group’s demands include cutting the Seattle Police Department’s budget by at least half and using that money to fund restorative justice, housing and healthcare, as well as releasing all jailed protests.
This protest sign warns that the demonstrators ‘are not leaving until our demands are met’ – stating these as a 50 per cent cut in Seattle’s police budget, more funding for black communities and freedom for all arrested protesters
Artwork on the road announces the title of the Capital Hill Occupied Protest or CHOP. Another sign directs people to a coronavirus testing site
A placard in the ‘autonomous zone’ in Seattle displays a quote by Martin Luther King Jr – ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’ – which he wrote from a Birmingham jail in 1963
Seattle police chief Carmen Best has voiced support for re-imagining community safety and mayor Jenny Durkan has called the protest a ‘peaceful expression of our community’s collective grief’.
‘We have listened for generations, and we will continue to listen,’ Best said. ‘But the time for talk and committees is over. We must act. Together.’
Proposals include allowing a community member to join the police department’s command staff and determining which non-violent 911 calls can acceptably be passed on to other agencies or the community.
The city has provided barricades to protect the demonstrators and Durkin has asked cops to prepare models of what 20, 30 and 50 per cent budget cuts would look like.
But following several recent shootings in the area, Durkan said on Monday the city would wind down the protest zone, at first by encouraging demonstrators to leave.
Durkan said that police would return to the precinct, but neither she nor Best have given specifics on when that would happen.
Naudia Miller said crime has always been prevalent around Cal Anderson Park and rejected claims that recent incidents were linked to the protests.
‘Homelessness, substance abuse and gun violence are long standing issues in the area, across our city and our nation,’ she said.
Flowers and tributes are left in the ‘occupied’ zone after a pre-dawn shooting in the protest zone on Saturday left one person dead and another injured
These pictures were put up in the CHOP zone in memory of ‘those killed during the George Floyd rebellion’ in recent weeks
Posters declaring ‘Black Lives Matter’ and demanding the ‘defunding’ of Seattle’s police department are displayed on the empty precinct building which was vacated by cops following the protests
A protester stands on a bicycle by a graffitied wall in the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest area in Seattle where demonstrators have been camped amid the George Floyd anti-racism protests
People walk along a street in the ‘autonomous zone’ in Seattle which has been repeatedly criticized by President Donald Trump who characterizes the protesters as ‘thugs’
A man wearing a mask walks by a graffitied building in the ‘autonomous zone’ which was abandoned by police last week
This artwork in the Seattle protest zone displays an octopus emblazoned with the slogan BLM or Black Lives Matter, along with a call to ‘end systemic racism’