On Wednesday, July 1, police forcibly removed the remaining occupants of the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) in Seattle, arresting at least 31 people in the process. CHOP, earlier called the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone or CHAZ, sprang up after the city abandoned the neighborhood’s East Police Precinct in June.
The clearing of CHOP came one day after Mayor Jenny Durkan called for an investigation of socialist Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant, a vocal defender of racial justice protesters, with an eye to expelling Sawant from the council.
So, at the same time that Durkan ordered the crackdown on Seattle’s most visible manifestation of protest in the streets, she also launched a campaign to get rid of Sawant, the most prominent face of the protest on the city council, for “disorderly or otherwise contemptuous behavior.” But this redbaiting, anti-communist maneuver has as much to do with Sawant’s overall politics and persistent attempts to increase taxes on Amazon and Seattle’s other biggest businesses as it does with her support for Black Lives Matter.
The Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) and Radical Women (RW), which have been active in the Black lives protests from the start, call for an end to the political attack on Sawant, the resignations of Durkan and Best, and the creation of an elected civilian review board, partnered with an independent prosecutor, with real power to discipline or fire abusive cops.
Like hundreds of cities around the country, Seattle erupted in marches and rallies after the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. From the first night, peaceful demonstrations were met with violence by law enforcement using repeated rounds of tear gas, pepper spray, flash-bang grenades and more. Nightly protests soon focused on the East Precinct, and city officials quickly called in the National Guard and other area police forces. Each night after the 11:00 p.m. news, a police riot would resume with a full barrage of chemical weapons as thousands of protesters faced off against officers — even after Mayor Durkan and Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said that police would no longer use tear gas.
Suddenly, on June 8, the Seattle Police Department abandoned the East Precinct, and the area ultimately known as CHOP grew up around it. Tents sprung up on the sidewalks and in Cal Anderson Park and rallies and speak-outs took place daily.
CHOP formed out of a passionate commitment to the ideas that Black lives matter and cop violence must be stopped, but it had no accountable, democratically chosen leadership or agreed-upon program. It also suffered from a lack of effective collaboration from residents and small businesses in the neighborhood it had taken over.
Then, over a period of nine days starting on June 20, five shootings in or near the zone resulted in the deaths of two Black teenagers, with cops and Fire Department medics unwilling or unable to intervene in the face of protesters’ resistance to police. Support began to drain away from the project and people started to leave, opening the road for Durkan and Best to implement the eviction.
In addition to calling for the resignations of Durkan and Best, hands off Sawant, and an elected civilian review board, FSP and RW make these demands: Slash the Seattle Police Department by at least 50 percent, with the money redirected to social needs; disarm the cops and recall their military hardware; expel police unions from the AFL-CIO; and free all Black Lives Matter protesters, including those arrested during the CHOP sweep.
FSP and RW stand for a democratic, working-class united front to defend Black lives and for an end to racism and all forms of oppression through socialist revolution.
Issued by Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women
New Freeway Hall, 5018 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98118
SeattleFSP@socialism.com • 206-722-2453 • facebook.com/FSPSeattle
RWSeattle@mindspring.com • 206-722-6057 • radicalwomen.org • facebook.com/RWSeattle