WHAT HAS REALLY HAPPENED IN CHOP–AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT
The Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, originally dubbed the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ, never was what it proclaimed to be.
CHOP was born out of many nights of violent clashes between protesters and the Seattle Police Department, which had been ordered to protect its East Precinct from damage. Fearing escalating violence, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, a first-term Democrat, decided to abandon the police station and pull her officers June 8.
That’s when protesters and radicals took the bustling neighborhood near downtown Seattle.
It’s true that CHOP enjoyed elements of a street fair. I saw Seattleites and tourists picking up complimentary snacks at the No-Cop Co-Op before lounging on the AstroTurf of Cal Anderson Park and taking in the rare agreeable weather during the early days.
The Conversation Cafe, a simple collection of secondhand couches, allowed progressive and socialist strangers and friends alike to discuss their activism. Gardens popped up in the north end of CHOP, surrounded by tents occupied by activists and the homeless. CHOP also boasted a mobile medical unit, a smoking area, and frequent documentary screenings and speeches.
But CHOP, which aligned itself with the Black Lives Matter movement, also developed segregationist policies. A portion of the park transformed into “Black Out: an all black healing space” from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
White allies guarded the area, allowing entry only “if you experienced oppression because you are black.” One garden was exclusive to “black and indigenous folks and their plant allies.” . . .
A group called the Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club patrolled CHOP, communicating via walkie-talkies and text messages. Though these protesters once tweeted their support for open borders for America, they unironically helped guard CHOP’s fortified walls.
I watched as the gun club—along with like-minded protesters—monitored visitors they deemed suspicious and broke up or deescalated fights, sometimes with weapons.
They weren’t alone. Local rapper and Airbnb “superhost” Raz Simone, who the media dubbed a leader of the movement, took up security duties. He armed anyone who said they were over age 18 and ready to defend the fledgling “autonomous zone.”
It became an elaborate but dangerous game of dress-up.
Car Tender, the McDermotts’ auto repair business, was hit by an opportunistic criminal. Alerted to a break-in late June 14, the shop owners arrived to find a young man who they said was trying to set their business ablaze.
After the McDermotts realized police weren’t going to show, a new problem developed: 100 to 200 protesters gathered outside the repair shop, threatening to burn it down unless the McDermotts turned over the man they had caught, identified later as Richard Hanks, 21.
Protesters “knocked down the chain link fence that surrounds the business and rushed the yard,” according to a police report on the incident. “To appease the protesters, the suspect was released to them.”
Police said Hanks was held and questioned briefly, then physically assaulted by the group—some of the same protesters who argue that police too quickly turn to violence.
Hanks got away, but King County sheriff’s deputies arrested him several hours later while, they said, he was trying to steal a car.
So due process doesn’t exist at CHOP. Get accused of a crime and you may answer to angry people with weapons. . . .
No Free Speech in CHOP
President Donald Trump weighed in June 10 on central Seattle’s autonomous zone, saying it had been taken over by “domestic terrorists.” While this was somewhat overstated, CHOP protesters had their own media narrative in mind.
With the help of reporters from CNN, The New York Times, and the Daily Beast, media outlets opposed to Trump, a media lie developed: Despite evidence to the contrary, CHOP was overwhelmingly peaceful.
Fawning over CHOP, some reporters were free of harassment and intimidation because they either pushed approved talking points or didn’t leave nearby hotel rooms after dark. But your media affiliation, and the time of day you reported from CHOP, dictated how those in the streets treated you.
A mob accosted and assaulted Brandi Kruse, a reporter with local KCPQ-TV (Q13-FOX), because of her perceived connection to Fox News Channel. She is a friend, and the video is terrifying.
And after a Fox News cameraman readied a live hit for me June 14 on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” the crew pulled out for safety. We ended up filming at a safer location nearby.
First, they identify you as an unfriendly reporter and post your photos to Twitter alerting fellow protesters to, at best, be on their best behavior or, at worst, harass and intimidate. Second, they interfere.
Townhall’s Julio Rosas and I were inside CHOP on Saturday, June 13, documenting the scene. Within minutes, we saw multiple fights break out.
Durkan began to take a different tone on CHOP on June 22. No longer was it the “summer of love,” as the mayor had claimed to CNN.
Durkan apparently concluded that CHOP had become too violent and must be disbanded. But she offered no plan or timeline, perhaps hoping that the gun violence alone would drive protesters away.
Over the next few days, my latest visit showed, many protesters did leave. Now, the population of CHOP looks to be a fraction of what it once was. That gave the city an opening to move—or so officials thought.
City crews surprised remaining protesters early Friday by arriving to remove barriers, but the activists weren’t happy. They blocked the crews from working, and one protester reportedly pulled a gun on a city worker.
Durkan again retreated, and no one was arrested.
Durkan met that afternoon with handpicked protesters to negotiate an end to the occupation. Seattle officials barred media and the mayor told the only citizen journalist in attendance, Omari Salisbury, to stop live tweeting and streaming the meeting.
Afterward, Salisbury relayed that the protesters didn’t seem prepared to negotiate. Indeed, many of their demands, from ending qualified immunity for police officers to restoring the vote to those they deem disenfranchised, are not in the purview of the city.
Protestors eventually agreed to start the cleanup Sunday. That never happened. And early Monday, the drive-by shooting left a 16-year-old boy fatally wounded and another youth, 14, in critical condition.
Police said the two teens presumably were the occupants of a white Jeep Cherokee SUV into which “several unidentified people” had fired shots, MyNorthwest reported.
Like Lorenzo Anderson a week earlier, the dead teen was black.
“We need to be able to get back into the area,” Best, Seattle’s police chief, told reporters. “This is dangerous and unacceptable.”
What CHOP Could Have Been
The Capitol Hill Organized Protest suffered an existence of contradictions.
Called to action by the police killing of Floyd in Minneapolis, the protesters demanded an end to police brutality while they beat up or threatened those they viewed as suspects.
Protesters who previously declared borders racist and unnecessary quickly created their own borders to keep out unwanted elements.
They said they supported a free autonomous zone, but actively stopped a free press from doing honest reporting there.
Rather than be honest about what was happening on the ground, politicians turned a blind eye, giving the neighborhood to fringe activists and hoping it would help them politically.
They’ve been rewarded with class-action lawsuits.
Meanwhile, some media outlets reported on what they apparently wanted CHOP to be instead of what it actually was.
Imagine if all media outlets had been honest about CHOP. If they had called out the violence, maybe some of it could have been prevented. If they had criticized CHOP’s lack of leadership and organizing, some could have developed.
In the end, CHOP failed to meet what it had said would become its potential. Seattle remains without a functioning police precinct there, and the mayor still has no public plans to take it back.
(Excerpt from The Daily Signal. Article by Jason Rantz.)
Reports have also come out that street preaching is not allowed in CHOP. Isn’t this sad? They are closed to hearing the one message that can help–the gospel of Jesus Christ. Join us in praying for salvation for the residents, participants, and leaders of CHOP, as well as for the well-being of business owners. Let’s ask God to use this for good and to bring Himself glory.
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