From CHAZ to CHOP: Seattle protest makes a change
It was a busy weekend in Seattle for antiracism protests. The six-block area on Capitol Hill called the CHAZ is still there, but people have given the area a new name.
Reporter Casey Martin laid out the reasons with KUOW’s Angela King.
Casey Martin: Definitely a ton of energy among Black Lives Matter activists and people who are supporting this movement. On Friday, thousands of people participated in a silent march through Seattle. There was a huge children's march on Saturday, and then another march through downtown on Sunday. And all weekend long, hundreds of people crammed into the Capitol Hill protest area, which has been the epicenter of Seattle's protests.
Angela King: We knew that area before as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, but it has a new name now.
Martin: Black Lives Matter organizers, a lot of the most visible people who are speaking the most in Capitol Hill, felt that the autonomous zone name wasn't quite accurate. They say it is not autonomous. They are not trying to secede from America or anything like that. So they are rebranding it as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest or CHOP. Not everyone's on board with that. A lot of people still like CHAZ, but there's no single leader or group, so it's really whatever people call it. And as of Sunday night, they were re-spray painting the street. So today it's officially CHOP.
King: Monday marks one week since police left the East Precinct and protesters claimed that spot. Do we have an idea as to how long they plan to stay?
Martin: Well, if you ask any person here, they'll tell you that they fought for this spot and they're just not going to give it up without some sort of real change. There is a list of demands like defunding the police or asking Mayor Jenny Durkan to resign, but what happens with the empty East Precinct building? Well, that's a bit of a standoff. Protesters say they are not going to leave until they feel that their demands are met. But I can tell you that those demands change a lot. They're not agreed to by every single person there. There's not one single leading voice negotiating with the city or the police.
King: So how are people feeling about the area being police free for a week now?
Martin: There are two clear, different groups of people who are showing up every day, many in Cal Anderson Park are hanging out there, drinking a beer. They say that the occupation is the point of the protest. They're enjoying a relaxing summer night. Without police around, the fighting is over.
But a lot of Black activists are really upset that this is starting to look like a block party. There's a large contingent that says this was born out of violence from the police. They were here during the tear gas and say their work is not done yet. I spoke to one person who asked to be identified just by their first name, Jay. And I met them telling the crowd, this is not Coachella, this is not a music festival: “I think it's absolutely unacceptable. That behavior is unacceptable. If they want a party, they can stay at home and if they want to watch black people die, they can stay at home to do that as well.”
People like Jay say they're not satisfied with the mayor or the city yet, and they plan to keep marching until they see substantial change.