The occupied the protest zone near downtown Seattle, known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, or “Chop,” effectively came to a quick end early Wednesday morning when officers largely cleared the area of people and camps, despite some protests continuing overnight through Thursday .
Now activists say that the conditions built and lessons learned in the self-proclaimed police-free zone over the past three weeks have already had a lasting impact that will live on past Chop’s physical presence.
“We won, we win, we made history,” said Rick Hearns, who had become security chief at Chop. “Look what we did here. The world saw it. “
But the protest area also became the site of a series of night commits, which left a 16-year-old boy and a 19-year-old man dead and several others seriously injured.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday afternoon, Seattle’s mayor, Jenny Durkan, highlighted the violence in the zone, saying “the latest threats to public safety have been well-documented” and “this violence required action.”
She said: “Our conversations over the weekend made it clear that many individuals would not leave, and that we could not address these critical public safety issues until they did.”
The autonomous zone occurred organically after a series of dangerous clashes between protesters and law enforcement during marches against police brutality that resulted from the death of George Floyd and the African American by a white Minneapolis police officer in May.
Officers in Seattle abandoned their eastern building when demonstrations were closed, after which protesters camped around it with the intention of protecting the building from any destruction that could be blamed on them.
Over the following days, hundreds more joined, and suddenly several blocks of the city’s streets flooded with people of different ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds, focusing on demanding deepening of the city’s police department – echoing such protests that arose from coast to coast, which may This means diverting money that is budgeted for the police departments into social and educational services or even dismantling an entire department and restructuring the legislative system.
And they wanted to end police brutality against black people, explained Tarika Powell, an organizer with the Seattle Black Collective Voice.
“It was a space where people came to learn. We showed documentaries, we put on people’s assemblies every day where people had the opportunity to talk and share their feelings and ideas … we put on educational events every day, ”she told the Guardian.
“We had a space called Conversation Cafe where people could learn about racism and talk about it in ways they shouldn’t do in their daily lives.”
It not only brought important conversations and learning, but also lasting ties, which have subsequently led to the organization of anti-racist protests and the creation of social justice groups.
For example, the Seattle Black Collective Voice was formed after a group of organizers and protesters met in Chop, Powell explained.
Today there are approximately 40 people involved in the collective, and they hold weekly educational events and organize neighborhood cleaning and mental health outreach for people in the African American community.
“We wouldn’t have been able to meet and get involved in the work we do if it hadn’t been for Chop,” she said.
Pay the Fee Tiny Library was launched in a tent in Chop, and now organizers have set up the library, which includes blacks, indigenous peoples and people of color and LGBTQ literature, around town and holding events. And a garden started in Cal Anderson Park is now expected to be a permanent addition to the neighborhood.
Protesters have repeatedly emphasized that the shootings and violence were not directly linked to Chop, and may have happened anyway. But it resulted in a dramatic decline in occupants, it affected local businesses and residents and strengthened officials who urged occupants to disperse.
When police cleared Chop on Wednesday, after Mayor Durkan’s emergency, the area had largely been reduced to a small number of activists and many homeless, Powell explained.
The truth is that they “went in and did a violent sweep against homeless people and threw their tents and belongings,” she said.
“The homeless had come to Chop to be safe from the scourge. That’s the vast majority of people who were in that space since shooting began. “
Officers reported on Twitter that they arrested 31 people during the scourge.
Some activists have argued that the police area was needed as a bargaining chip to get their three main requirements met, which means that the police would be exploited, use the money to invest in community health and services, and release punitive costs against protesters. Others say that another occupation in the city could be a future opportunity.
Jessie Livingston, 36, a protester who has camped in Chop almost every day since it was founded, said she did not know exactly what form the movement could take, but said: “We will organize sit-ins, we will spam city officials , we will show up to the city council, we will do everything we know how to do. “
She added: “We’re not going anywhere.”