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‘Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone’ Reportedly Has Armed Community Patrol; Mayor’s Office Responds
A man walks past a stop sign reading stop cops inside the Capitol Hill Organized Protest formerly known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle, Washington on June 14, 2020.
Photo by Noah Riffe/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The six-block area in Seattle surrounding the East Precinct known as the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” now reportedly has an armed community patrol.

As Kim Kelly, the labor columnist at Teen Vogue, writes at the Daily Beast, “Comparisons have predictably been drawn between CHAZ and the Occupy movement, but in the place also known as Free Capitol Hill, there is one crucial distance: this time, some of the protesters are armed.”

Kelly notes that members of the Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club (PSJBGC), a leftist organization, “have been a constant presence.”

Among members of the Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club in 2019, according to police, was 69-year-old Willem van Spronsen, who allegedly attacked an ICE center before he was fatally shot by police after he allegedly pointed a rifle at authorities. Spronsen “allegedly approached the center around 4 a.m. Saturday, manipulating what looked like an AR-15-style rifle and setting fire to a building owned by the detention center. Police said surveillance video shows he placed flares strategically — including underneath a 500-gallon propane tank — ignited his own car so it would explode and threw molotov cocktails at nearby buildings,” according to The Washington Post.

The New York Times reported in 2019 that van Spronsen, “who was armed with a rifle, was throwing unspecified ‘incendiary devices’ at the Northwest Detention Center.” The incident, a Tacoma Police Department spokeswoman said, “could have resulted in the mass murder of staff and detainees housed at the facility.”

Kelly, who says she is a member of the Socialist Rifle Association, breathlessly refers to the “past several days of [the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone’s] remarkable existence,” writing that it has “struck fear into the hearts of conservative politicians and right-wing media pundits (including the president.)”

“Right-wing media has worked itself into a lather over the specter of armed leftists patrolling the area’s makeshift borders, but that hysteria only underlines what activists see as their profound misunderstanding of both leftist gun culture and what exactly these people are defending themselves against,” she writes.

The goal of the group, she claims, is to “discourage white supremacist groups, accelerationist boogaloo bois, and violent gangs like the Proud Boys from trying to harm the people inside.”

“There have been individuals with weapons — open carrying is legal in Washington State,” a spokesperson for Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan’s office told the Daily Beast. “While the CHAZ is within the area of the City currently under a weapons ban, the Emergency Order establishing the weapons ban does not mandate enforcement. It gives officers the option to take certain actions (i.e., confiscate weapons) if they deem it necessary.”

“The City will continue to assess the area on a regular basis and work with community and other stakeholders on a path forward that allows individuals to demonstrate, businesses to continue their operations, and preserves public safety for local residents,” the spokesperson said. “Officers in the East Precinct have continued to respond to calls. [Seattle Police] Chief [Carmen] Best and Command Staff have been on site at the East Precinct including yesterday, and some personnel are now staffing the precinct.”

“We don’t want to exacerbate or intensify or incite problems that are going to lead to harm to the officers or the people who are standing by. We know that several are armed. We want to make sure that we are being very thoughtful about how we respond,” Chief Best told KIRO 7.

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