Seattle, Washington's CHAZ/CHOP experience: A cautionary tale

James H. "Smokey" Shott

The takeover of six blocks of Seattle, Washington early last month as a protest of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis, Minnesota police was allowed to stand by the Seattle mayor, Jenny Durkan.

Perhaps she truly believed that allowing a group to hijack an area of her city, given the current riotous atmosphere in the country, was the best way to address the problem. Maybe the protesters would get tired in a few days of living without the normal comforts of life, and the small price those who lived, worked or owned businesses in the area had to pay was worth it. Or, perhaps she was just afraid to do her job, as she was expected to do.

Durkan characterized the Capitol Hill area as a place where people often express themselves. Defending her decision, after visiting the area where she had spoken with organizers, she said it was a place where people, including police officers, come and go freely.

She is not the only one who attempted to paint a rosy picture of the goings-on. A reporter for MSNBC termed the atmosphere there as “almost like a street festival.” His characterization was immediately disputed by an unhappy protester who said, “No, it is not a street festival! It is not a street festival! It is not a street festival! Do not say that!”

The mob of thousands that took control of the area — which included a police precinct that was willingly abandoned by the mayor, in a move to defuse the situation — called the area the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ). Later, the CHAZ was renamed the CHOP, which had two different, but similar translations: Capitol Hill Occupied Protest or Capitol Hill Organized Protest.

As should have been expected, what Durkan called “a summer of love” turned bad rather quickly. The takeover should have been met with immediate action by the city’s elected leaders and the police department. But the takeover was allowed to stand.

Judging by what transpired in the CHAZ/CHOP, a more appropriate name for it would have been the Capital Hill Anarchy Zone.

The mostly peaceful daytime hours devolved as darkness fell, with violence growing as time passed. Graffiti on streets and buildings, trash and other things left in the street, robberies, assaults and other violent crimes, including three serious injuries from shootings, and two Black teenagers who were shot to death.

Horace Lorenzo Anderson, Sr., the father of Lorenzo Anderson, Jr. the 19-year-old boy who was murdered on June 21, said that neither the mayor nor anyone in the city administration notified him of his son’s murder. He heard about it from two of his son’s friends who happened to be in the area. He criticized local officials for failing to stop the violence sooner.

Durkan reacted to the shootings by noting that the CHAZ had grown less safe instead of safer over time, and the effect on the surrounding community had not been positive. Was that not absolutely predictable?

“The cumulative impacts of the gatherings and protests and the nighttime atmosphere and violence has led to increasingly difficult circumstances for our businesses and residents,” she said. “The impacts have increased and the safety has decreased.” She ordered the area cleared.

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said: “This order, and our police response, comes after weeks of violence in and around the Capital Hill Occupied Protest zone, including four shootings, resulting in multiple injuries and the deaths of two teenagers.”

And so, the end of something that should never have started finally came about. At least 13 people were arrested.

And, guess what? Durkan called for charges to be dismissed against those who were arrested for misdemeanors. She also said that the community garden and artworks that protesters created would be saved.

However, businesses and property owners affected by the CHAZ have filed a federal lawsuit against the city claiming officials’ tolerance of the CHAZ deprived property owners of their rights by allowing the zone to exist.

Perhaps it was just a coincidence that the mayor awakened to the problem shortly after the “summer of love” street party rioters showed up at her home. A female member of the BLM mob told KING-TV, “We came down to Jenny Durkan’s mansion to bring the demands of the movement and of the families who have been impacted by police violence, uh, to her doorstep and she seems to not be able to hear our demands any other way.”

The leftists in Black Lives Matter and Antifa seem to think mob violence is the way to control the narrative. And, based upon many non-responses to mob violence, it seems to be working.

Giving in to the mob in Seattle and elsewhere has allowed much destruction and many injuries, and two deaths. But the complacency that allows the riots to continue seems at last to be waning.

It is perhaps too much to hope that the leftists will learn from this cautionary tale, but the country will certainly be far and away better off if they do. In any case, the lawlessness must be stopped.

James H. “Smokey” Shott, a resident of Bluefield, Va., is a columnist for the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at james.shott@yahoo.com

Recommended for you