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Sept. 22: Columbia City

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Long Live C.H.A.Z.

Welcome to the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, established June 8, 2020. 

A couple days ago, the police vacated the east precinct here in Capitol Hill, Seattle. Protests have been raging outside it basically nonstop for the last week. Tear gas and flash grenades were deployed against protestors for minor “infractions” which only stoked more anger over police brutality. I joined the protests a few times and trying to do reportage sketching felt absurd in the middle of what was essentially a war zone.

leftover barricades from the protests mark the porous threshold of the CHAZ.

In light of that, it was really amazing to go to the Hill last night and experience the new "Free Capitol Hill" that has emerged in the wake of the conflict. The difference on Wednesday night compared to Sunday night is extreme: with no police presence, people are peacefully watching films in the street, spraying pro-BLM graffiti, dancing in the streets, discussing social justice. There's a co-op where you can get free food and water. Everything is donation only. 95% of people are wearing masks, both for health and to conceal identity.

the Rancho Bravo patio was an outdoor medic station last week; now it's more of a place to convene and hydrate.

Now that the violence has left with the police, it feels good and correct to document what’s happening. I tried to sketch for clarity, and drawings don't run the risk of accidentally exposing people's identities if they don't want to be seen here. I think it’s important to share as truthfully I can what is happening in our city, especially small moments, like this one: 

A black man got on top of a parked truck and shouted out "Black Lives Matter" to the crowd. More and more people responded back to him. When he was done leading the chant, he shouted "I love you", to which the crowd responded "I love you too". It was really tender.

It was shocking at first to see how much graffiti is getting put up right out in the open, but after reflecting for a few minutes I decided that it's our city; we get to express ourselves how we want. 

The POTUS has been tweeting about the C.H.A.Z., unsurprisingly he feels very threatened by what it represents. “these ugly anarchists must be stooped [sic] immediately.” No one can know what is going to happen next (I've just read that the police want to take the precinct back) but being in CHAZ last night felt really important. If you're local, hopefully you can visit to see what "ugly anarchy" really looks like. And to be clear, I don't think this should be the end of the protests here; the demands have not been met. But it is definitely an interesting development I don't think anyone could have imagined a couple weeks ago. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this report for those of us stuck at home and wondering how we might support CHAZ.

    Long live CHAZ. :)