In an effort to replicate the “Seattle Autonomous Zone” in cities nationwide, protesters took to the streets of Asheville, North Carolina, Portland, Oregon, Nashville, Tennessee, and Chicago, Illinois, over the weekend. Warned by what’s happening in the “CHAZ,” though, police departments were quick to shut down those efforts.
In Nashville, the effort was over before it even began.
“Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued a warning hours before protesters are planning to take over an area outside the Capitol,” local news in Nashville reported Saturday. “Nashville autonomous zone ‘will not be tolerated,’ Lee said in a statement, citing that camping on state property is prohibited by law and it will be enforced.”
Occupying state property is a misdemeanor in Tennessee and despite organizers encouraging protesters to show up with “tents,” “food,” and other necessities, an autonomous zone never materialized.
In Asheville, members of law enforcement were on hand as demonstrators built their temporary lodgings on Livingston street in the center of the city and dismantled the autonomous zone just hours after protesters declared themselves immune from the laws of the United States.
Police dismantle an Antifa “autonomous zone” in Asheville, NC. Not today, stalin. pic.twitter.com/xWeepUDxkp
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) June 13, 2020
Protesters were shocked that, unlike in Seattle, the Asheville city government was unwilling to tolerate their continued presence.
“Update on #Asheville autonomous zone. Every cop in Asheville showed up, proving they have nothing better to do on a Friday night. Tore down barricade. As of 11pm est, <100 demonstrators remaining. Need more people & support. Many will be back tmrw. This is only the beginning,” one would-be autonomous zone citizen wrote on Twitter.
Police responded to continued threats of occupation with a statement about blocking public streets. “Blocking a roadway is not only illegal,” they noted, “but dangerous for both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.”
— Asheville Police (@AshevillePolice) June 13, 2020
Portland protesters received the same treatment. Cops dismantled the “autonomous zone” almost as quickly as it was erected.
“Portland protesters attempting to establish an ‘autonomous zone’ similar to the one in Seattle abandoned it shortly after erecting it,” the Washington Examiner wrote late last week.
“Footage from Wednesday night shows hundreds of rioters in the city erecting a makeshift fence to cordon off an area,” the outlet reported. After a clash with law enforcement, though, protesters gave up. “By early Thursday morning, protesters had dispersed, according to police.”
Chicago’s tiny “autonomous zone” is hanging on, but probably not for long. The “occupation” is of a single building on the University of Chicago’s campus — the headquarters of UChicago’s campus police department — and it is quickly running out of resources after law enforcement officials, who are still in charge of their own offices, refused to allow the interlopers to use their bathrooms or have outside food delivered.
University of Chicago police are blocking the doors, preventing us from getting access to food, water, & bathroom breaks during our peaceful sit in. Folk bought pizza and we can't get it. Call 773-702-8181 and DEMAND that they stop blocking the doors. #WeKeepUsSafe #HydePark pic.twitter.com/h8Mxkg8BjR
— Abolition is a Presence Asha AE 🌊 (@Asha_2A) June 12, 2020
To be clear, the graduate students are occupying the police department’s building — they are not outside — and did not come prepared for a long-term engagement. Forced to tangle with cops who weren’t willing to allow the protesters to use their facilities, they resorted to defecating in a designated location within the building.
Protesters inside and around a new “autonomous zone” at the University of Chicago Police Department are urinating and defecating inside a tent in the room. pic.twitter.com/QzZICTiKlA
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) June 13, 2020
In Seattle, the “autonomous zone” experiment goes on, supported by city officials who deemed the protest a “summer of love.”
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