After a series of shootings that resulted in one fatality, organizers of the Capitol Hill Organized/Occupied Protest (CHOP) — formerly the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) — say they are taking measures to improve security inside their six-block nation, instituting proposed “safe zones” for drug use and suggesting that CHOP empty at night to prevent violence.
After days of insisting that CHOP was a peaceful, party-like zone for those who want to have an ongoing protest against racism and police brutality, a group of CHOP organizers known as “Voices of CHOP” say they are prepared to take measures to control increasing violence and hope the full contingent of CHOP residents agree.
Voices of CHOP, “a group of BIPOC and white volunteers and activists,” released their proposal for a safe CHOP on Twitter late Sunday.
Please read and share: Open letter to the leaders, organizers, and #CHOP community. Physical copies will be available at the 2pm community meeting today. #CHOPcomms #seattleprotests #chazseattle #CHOPseattle #chopshooting #CHAZCHOP #CapitolHill #Seattle pic.twitter.com/hkKKeCTCQi
— VOICES OF CHOP (@ChopVoices) June 21, 2020
The “open letter” will be discussed at a meeting of the whole on Monday, but the group wants CHOP to agree to form a specific “safe zone” for drug and alcohol use, which they claim now runs rampant inside the “autonomous zone.” They also want volunteers to police those using the safe zone, keeping intoxicated individuals cordoned off from the group at large so that they don’t instigate violence.
The group is also proposing that the CHOP, which was supposed to function as an autonomous society apart from greater Seattle, institute operations hours of 8 am to 8 pm so that protests could take place during the day, but organizers could “thin out the bodies” within the six-block area at night to prevent overcrowding and violations of personal space.
The operational hours would, the group says, “encourage CHOP to stop being a chaotic, immobile zone in the late/early morning hours.”
The CHOP has seen at least two shootings (possibly three) and at least one fatality since late last week, and longtime residents of the six-block area have started to complain that the festive demonstrations take a darker turn at night, leaving them scared, concerned, and without recourse to law enforcement who are banned from the CHOP zone.
“We’re not even here most of the time. I’m scared to live here. It’s just not conducive,” one resident told local Seattle media last week. “What you want from a home is a stress-free environment. You want to be able to sleep well, you want to feel comfortable and we just don’t feel comfortable right now.”
The city government has largely remained silent on the subject, with Mayor Jenny Durkan insisting the protest is a “block party” and that demonstrators plan to have a “summer of love.” Others, like Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant, have suggested that the violence is the work of “right-wing” agitators and can be traced back to President Donald Trump.
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