Protesters in Seattle, Washington decided if they can’t get the government to act right, then they’ll create their own and call it “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.”
According to Fox News, six blocks in East Seattle have become a self-declared autonomous zone by protesters who seek police defunding and reforms regarding law enforcement. Inside the self-governed district are bars, businesses, homes, and the Seattle Police Department’s east precinct, which was evacuated earlier this week due to violent clashes between law enforcement and protesters. A tarp with the words “Property of the Seattle People” now hangs from the building.
The area at one point was filled with violence, which included a man running his truck into a crowd of protesters and multiple shootings; this prompted police to leave the area in hopes of quelling the violence and allowing for a more peaceful protest.
“We wanted to be able to facilitate and support peaceful demonstrations,” Assistant Chief of Police Deanna Nollette said on Wednesday.
SPD informed the public that they had received calls that the region has potential extortion and armed guards. “We’ve heard, anecdotally, reports of citizens and businesses being asked to pay a fee to operate within this area. This is the crime of extortion. If anyone has been subjected to this, we need them to call 911,” Nollette announced.
To reassure the public, protesters in the area have gone to social media to broadcast their peaceful protests. For the most part, things have been calm in the zone. But, armed guards who stand around the perimeter alarmed residents who live in the region when they asked them to show ID proving they “belong there.” Residents told police that if they don’t have their ID, they cannot get into the area and are begging police to intervene.
Residents have also voiced their unheard concerns regarding the tents and murals that are lined across the area. On top of that, one resident told police that there were “barricades littered throughout the intersection by protestors, and civilians walking around with AR15s, and the music hasn’t stopped.” But apparently, police are not allowed in the area unless someone calls 911 for help.
A law enforcement official who is not at liberty to discuss the events spoke to Fox News out of anonymity. The official stated that the leaders of the zone have begun to extort businesses in the area for “protection.”
Resident Mckenzie Diamond lives in the area and told Kiro 7 the experience has been “a bit stressful.”
“It’s like checking in with somebody to get into your own home,” Diamond told the news outlet. “Just making it so people can get into their buildings. Keep the zone however they want, and move the fencing so people can go home.”
People have been advised to call the real authorities if they are asked to show ID, seeing that no one has the right to force people to show anything. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
“While Washington is an open-carry state, there is no legal right for those arms to be used to intimidate community members,” Nollette told local KOMO news. The department is also aware of the threats protesters have made to burn down the east precinct, which could jeopardize the safety of the public and emergency responders.
SPD is interested in going back to the east precinct but would like to negotiate with the leaders of the protest; however, they have been unsuccessful in finding the head person in charge.
“It’s just a matter of establishing this dialogue. We’d love nothing more than to be able to open our precinct buildings,” Nollette said. “What we want to do is give an opportunity for everyone’s tempers to calm, and for us to approach the table with a view towards equality.”
The “Autonomous Zone” has received attention from Trump, who demanded “Law & Order” take place quickly in the city and tweeted, “Domestic Terrorists have taken over Seattle, run by Radical Left Democrats, of course,” on Wednesday.
He also harshly criticized the Governor and Mayor:
“Radical Left Governor @JayInslee and the Mayor of Seattle are being taunted and played at a level that our great Country has never seen before. Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will,” Trump wrote. “This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stooped IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST!”
Raz Simone, who may be a leader of the movement, responded by tweet:
“The President really put a hit on my head. I’m not a Terrorist Warlord. Quit spreading that false narrative,” Simone tweeted. “The world has NEVER been ready for a strong black man. We have been peaceful and nothing else. If I die, don’t let it be in vain.”
Hopefully, Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins, who is stationed a few blocks outside of the zone and has developed a cordial relationship, can act as a mediator between protesters and police. But as for now, he says he does not want to lose their trust.
“Well, we got a team, we are working through this, and there is some trust built, and I don’t want to compromise the trust,” Scoggins told the news outlet.
Protesters are now building their own barricades. There are calls to replicate the Seattle 'Free Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone' here on Chapman Square. #PortlandProtests #PDXprotests #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/ju4X7Jw5sQ
— Portland Independent Documentarians (@PDocumentarians) June 11, 2020