News and Commentary

Seattle ‘Autonomous Zone’ Creates Black-Only Segregated Area
An aerial view of a Black Lives Matter mural on East Pine Street near Cal Anderson Park is seen during ongoing Black Lives Matter events in the so-called "CHOP," an area that protesters have called both the "Capitol Hill Occupied Protest" and the "Capitol Hill Organized Protest, on June 14, 2020 in Seattle, Washington.
Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images

The “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ), which is now calling itself the “Capitol Hill Occupied Zone” (CHOP), apparently created a “black-only racially segregated area” with white residents of the zone guarding the perimeter so non-blacks could not enter.

The idea of segregated spaces for blacks only has been promulgated on college campuses for some time; a 2019 NAS study stated, “About 46 percent (80 colleges out of 173 surveyed) segregate student orientation programs; 43 percent (75 colleges out of the total) offer segregated residential arrangements; and 72 percent (125 colleges out of the total) segregate graduation ceremonies.”

In 2016, the University of Connecticut created the Scholars House, short for for “Scholastic House of Leaders who are African American Researchers and Scholars.” Its director, Prof. Erik Hines, stated, “It’s a living and learning community that will be a section of a dorm, and house about 50 students. It aims to help black males with class work, and provide them with mentorship, counseling, and prepare them for graduate school,” as NPR reported.

In 2017, a student organization at the University of Michigan called “Students4Justice” demanded that administrators create a space for students of color, writing in their list of demands, “Create a permanent designated space on central campus for Black students and students of color to organize, and do social justice work. This is not the same as Trotter Multicultural Center, because we want a space solely dedicated to community organizing and social justice work specifically for people of color.”

The University replied, “There are currently identifiable cross-cultural spaces on campus. The Connector that connects West Quad in the Union is an example of cross-cultural spaces. The multi-cultural lounges in residence halls also serve as cross-cultural spaces. University Housing implemented a multi-year plan to update all 11 multicultural lounges.”

After a firestorm of criticism erupted from Student4Justice’s demands, Vikrant Garg, one of Students4Justice’s organizers, told The Washington Post, “I think it’s just been a really interesting firestorm. Because we asked for a space for students of color, people automatically assumed that no white students would be allowed, whereas that’s never explicit in the language. That was never an agreement, never anything that we thought about.”

A June 16 blog post from Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan stated:

The Capitol Hill Organized Protest has emerged as a gathering place where community members can demand change of their local, state, and federal government. Capitol Hill and Cal Anderson Park have long been a gathering place for justice. While there have been inaccurate and misleading depictions of the CHOP from the President and some national media, the City believes first amendment activities can continue while also maintaining public safety and allowing access for residents and businesses who operate in the area … The City is committed to maintaining space for community to come together, protest and exercise their first amendment rights.

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