On Thursday night, speaking with CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan, who had compared Seattle’s “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” to a block party at a press conference, doubled down, likening the takeover of six city blocks to “more like a block party atmosphere” and answering Cuomo’s question “How long do you think Seattle in those few blocks looks like this?” by saying, “We could have the Summer of Love.”
Durkan referring to the “Summer of Love” was likely a reference to 1967, when roughly 100,000 people, mostly young hippies, descended on the Haight-Asbury neighborhood of San Francisco, or more broadly hippies gathered up and down the West Coast generally and across the nation. The scene was dominated by drug use.
Unlike the takeover of Seattle’s six-block area, where there have been reports of people being armed and extorting residents, 1967 featured aspects like the song “San Francisco,” in which John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas wrote:
If you’re going to San Francisco,
be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.
If you come to San Francisco,
Summertime will be a love-in there.
As the gifted author of “The Right Stuff” and “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” Tom Wolfe, wrote in his essay, “The Great Relearning,” the “Summer of Love” had its own problems:
1968, in San Francisco, I came across a curious footnote to the psychedelic movement. At the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic there were doctors who were treating diseases no living doctor had ever encountered before, diseases that had disappeared so long ago they had never even picked up Latin names, diseases such as the mange, the grunge, the itch, the twitch, the thrush, the scroff, the rot. And how was it that they had now returned? It had to do with the fact that thousands of young men and women had migrated to San Francisco to live communally in what I think history will record as one of the most extraordinary religious experiments of all time.
The hippies, as they became known, sought nothing less than to sweep aside all codes and restraints of the past and start out from zero. At one point Ken Kesey organized a pilgrimage to Stonehenge with the idea of returning to Anglo-Saxon civilization’s point zero, which he figured was Stonehenge, and heading out all over again to do it bet- ter. Among the codes and restraints that people in the communes swept aside—quite purposely—were those that said you shouldn’t use other peo- ple’s toothbrushes or sleep on other people’s mattresses without changing the sheets or, as was more likely, with- out using any sheets at all or that you and five other people shouldn’t drink from the same bottle of Shasta or take tokes from the same cigarette. And now, in 1968, they were relearning . . . the laws of hygiene . . . by getting the mange, the grunge, the itch, the twitch, the thrush, the scroff, the rot.
In Durkan’s interview with Cuomo, there were these exchanges:
Cuomo: So, I don’t have to tell you about the situation on the ground in your City. But, in terms of how it looks, to the rest of the country, and the President, teeing it up as basically ineptitude, the ability – inability to control your own streets, is that fair criticism?
Durkan: So, I know it will shock you that the President is perhaps not giving an accurate or truthful picture. We’ve got four blocks in Seattle that you just saw pictures of that is more like a block party atmosphere. It’s not an armed takeover. It’s not a military junta. We will – we will make sure that we can restore this. But we have block parties and the like in this part of Seattle all the time. It’s known for that. So, I think the President — number one, there is no threat right now to the public. And we’re looking — we’re taking that very seriously. We’re meeting with businesses and residents. But what the President threatened is illegal and unconstitutional. And the fact that he can think he can just tweet that, and not have ramifications is just wrong.
Cuomo: The counter will be block parties don’t take over a municipal building, let alone a police station, and destroy it, basically thumbing their nose at any sense of civic control. Do you believe that you have control of your City and that you would be able to clear those streets because you haven’t?
Durkan: We do. And the Chief of Police was in that precinct today with her Command Staff looking and assessing on operational plans. But we saw that it was a point of conflict night after night between the Police Department and protesters, and we wanted to de-escalate that. And what we decided was the best way to do that was reopen the streets, and that itself ended up with some ramifications for the precinct, to remove anything that was valuable from out of that building.
But we will make sure that all of Seattle is safe where we take Public Safety seriously. But the description the President has given is not only wrong. But if it were right, his remedy is wrong. You don’t dominate.
Cuomo: Mayor, the other counter by the President, and many people on the Right, will be “Well, of course, Durkan has a “D” after her name. She’s going to be OK with this because these are her people. These are these Left-wing anarchists and radicals, and they’re letting them run free on the streets. You barely see any Black or African- American faces on those streets. This is about Lefty radicalism run amok in your City, and you seem OK with it.”
Durkan: So, Chris, as you know, I was the United States Attorney here in Seattle. And during that time, as United States Attorney, we investigated and prosecuted a whole range of bad actors, including militia groups, and drug cartels, anarchists and the like. We are – we have our Public Safety approach in one way. And during this time, a number-one priority every American City has is to protect the First Amendment right.
Our country was born out of protest. The right to gather, the right to protest, the right to challenge government, when it’s wrong, is our most fundamental constitutional right. It’s a reason it’s the First Amendment.
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