CHAZ Seattle, WA
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The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) or the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP), also known as Free Capitol Hill is an occupation protest and self-declared autonomous zone in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. The zone, originally covering six city blocks and a park, was established on June 8, 2020 by George Floyd protesters after the Seattle Police Department (SPD) vacated its East Precinct building at Capitol Hill.
Local governance in the zone is decentralized, with the goal of creating a neighborhood without police. Purported demands associated with the zone include rent control, the reversal of gentrification, the abolition or defunding of police, funding of community health, and releasing prisoners serving time for marijuana-related offenses or resisting arrest, with expungement of their records.
Reactions to the zone have varied through the political spectrum. President Donald Trump referred to the occupants as "ugly Anarchists" and called for the governor of Washington and the mayor of Seattle to "take back" the zone, while Mayor Jenny Durkan on June 11 described the zone as "four blocks in Seattle that is more like a block party atmosphere. It's not an armed takeover. It's not a military junta. We will make sure that we will restore this but we have block parties and the like in this part of Seattle all the time ... there is no threat right now to the public." On June 14, USA Today confirmed the festive atmosphere, reporting that protesters who had previously clashed with police "have had their rough edges dulled by tens of thousands of tourists and sightseers. CHAZ has morphed into what looks and feels like a mini Burning Man festival.
Following the zone's founding, SPD Chief Carmen Best said that the police department was looking at different approaches to "reduce [their] footprint" in the Capitol Hill neighborhood but later said that officials were working to return police officers to the precinct. She stressed the "need to have officers responding to calls in a timely fashion. And with the occupation that's taking place, we're not able to do so in a timely way." On June 14, Chief Best spoke of having marched with Black Lives Matter (BLM) in the zone two days before: "I was looking at the 60,000 people that were there, signs saying, you know, defund the police, stop police brutality, you know, no qualified immunity. And I just realized it was a moment, an epiphany, that this is a pivotal moment in history. We are going to move in a different direction and policing will never be the same as it was before."
On June 12, BLM protesters were reportedly negotiating with local officials to leave the zone. Four days later, the zone's roadblocks were removed, allowing for emergency service vehicles to pass through and decreasing CHAZ's size down to 3 blocks.