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At center of Capitol Hill protest zone and on the edge of Seattle movement’s goals, debate begins on future of the East Precinct

There are many leaders at work inside the camp and protest zone that has formed around the emptied East Precinct on Capitol Hill. One, District 3 representatives on the city council Kshama Sawant, says she has a plan for the two-story building’s 62,000 square feet of space including some 20,000 square feet of parking.

In a message to her social media followers Thursday night, the senior member of the Seattle City Council said her office is preparing legislation that would remove the building from Seattle Police Department control and turn the 94-year-old structure into a community center for restorative justice.

“The process for deciding East Precinct conversion must include those involved in CHAZ, black community organizations, restorative justice, faith, anti-racist, renter (organizations), land trusts, groups, (and) labor unions that have a proven record of fighting racism,” Sawant writes.

But in the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, no political path is certain.

Protestors have gathered in the CHAZ at the intersection of Pine and 12th since Monday night, when police boarded up the precinct, cleared out of the area and re-opened surrounding streets after a week of standoffs and violent police crowd control. Protestors are now trying to figure out what next steps to take, especially after reports that some officers came back inside the building and Chief Best announced that the SPD is making plans to return.

Thursday afternoon the protestors surrounding the precinct, self-described as a “decentralized movement,” broke off into three groups with pens and paper out to discuss organizing tactics going forward, long term goals and a “vibe check.”


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“3 PM everyday we’re going to do what we just did — vibe checks, tactical planning, and how to make this a beautiful, long-standing place that we can have forever and give back to the Duwamish,” said one organizer emceeing with the microphone.

There were calls among the group for information to be more centralized and to have direct action training. Some protestors raised the possibility of having elected leadership and a general assembly.

Discrepancies emerged among the crowd about the differing activities of those populating the zone and the continued occupancy of the area being called CHAZ.

“I’m a little bit annoyed when I come out and I just see people chilling on the field that I fought for,” one speaker who lives in the area told the crowd. “What does that have to do for Black lives? What does that do to protect me because right now all I know is [police] walked back in, they walked back into the neighborhood that I fought for. So you guys could chill here and learn and all this, but what does it actually mean when the cops come back? The thing is I respect that this is the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, but I’m just going to be honest: that sounds way too white to me. I live here, I fought for it — this is Black Block.”

A CHAZ website has been formed, listing demands including a complete defunding of the Seattle Police Department among a host of other justice, economics, health and human services, and education issues. Sawant’s restorative justice center isn’t yet explicitly on the list.

“The overwhelming majority of this community is saying we do not want this symbol [the East Precinct] of a corrupt system to remain in our streets,” speaker Mark Anthony told CHS. “We do not want these people that have chosen to put property over lives in our streets. We don’t want these people that have chosen not to stand with the people when given the opportunity to remain in our streets, and we don’t want these people that have committed war crimes against us to remain in our streets.”

Anthony explained that if SPD officers try to enter the building, the crowd will form a peaceful picket line.

Not all who attended the talks Thursday were in agreement about continuing to occupy this space, particularly a group of women that came from the African American Community Advisory Council, a group that works with the SPD to address concerns of the Black community.

“You got a bunch of white people that are treating it like it’s — my sister said a Burning Man — it’s ridiculous, it’s not solving anything, there needs to be a solution,” Connie Cates, who came in support of Black Lives Matter, told CHS. “I think Chief Best is going to weed out the bad police. It’s not going to happen overnight. With any police department, it’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of people.”

(Image: CHS)

For Sawant’s path, the camp will have to hold weeks and maybe month’s as the legislation is shaped, debated, and protected from likely opposition from SPD and the mayor’s office. The auto row-era building has stood through decades of change on the Hill and its large x-shaped seismic braces show its ready to continue serving the neighborhood.

Thursday, Chief Carmen Best put down the first plank in a bridge to returning to 12th and Pine — response times, she said, are up three times across Capitol Hill, the Central District, and surrounding neighborhoods

We’ve asked Sawant’s office for more information about the proposal and the legislation she says she will introduce but haven’t heard back yet. Monday, two piece of protest-inspired legislation from Sawant will come in front of the full City Council:

CB 119804
AN ORDINANCE relating to the Seattle Police Department; prohibiting the use of chokeholds by officers; amending Section 12A.04.200 of, and adding a new Section 3.28.145 to, the Seattle Municipal Code.

CB 119805
AN ORDINANCE relating to the Seattle Police Department; banning the ownership, purchase, rent, storage, or use of crowd control weapons; and adding a new Section 3.28.146 to the Seattle Municipal Code.

Friday, organizers were also celebrating a win in court as a judge ruled in favor of a temporary injunction limiting SPD’s use of chemical weapons like tear gas and pepper spray:

Our motion for a temporary restraining order was GRANTED in BLM v. Seattle case.

The Order restrains the City of Seattle from using chemical agents or projectiles of any kind (including flash bang grenades) against peaceful protesters!

As we argued, when facing an individualized threat, officers can still take “necessary, reasonable, proportional, and targeted action to protect against a specific imminent threat of physical harm to themselves or identifiable others.” But tear gas may only be used against a targeted individual after all other available options are exhausted, and no chemical irritants (pepper spray or tear gas) or projectiles may be deployed “indiscriminately” into a crowd.

At the zone, despite differences in how to best support the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight against police brutality, protestors with differing opinions continue to voice their thoughts, ideas, and concerns for the future of the area. As activists outside the East Precinct deliberated over strategies and tactics to continue occupying the area, others ventured west down Pine to grab a free snack and sit down at the Bobby Morris playfield, watch local artists paint a Black Lives Matter mural, or join conversations about antiracism on couches brought into the street for a “Conversation Cafe.”

“I think that building true consensus and a collective agreement on anything is messy at first — it’s going to be messy. You can either deal with the messiness and learn and grow from it and adapt or you can let a couple of voices dominate the whole discussion,” said neighborhood resident Beck, who has been consistently attending the protests. “My job as a white person, in my opinion, is to clear the path for Black voices to be heard and amplified.”


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27 thoughts on “At center of Capitol Hill protest zone and on the edge of Seattle movement’s goals, debate begins on future of the East Precinct” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. How about this – sell building, return whatever $$ to reduce property tax. Funny how the source of all this money is obscured. It’s our money and we want it back !

  2. Thank god for those rational opinions from AACAC and BLM. This CHAZ shit is really getting nobody nowhere fast. A lot of these “protestors” are admiringly optimistic but incredibly naive. Nobody gave you the precinct and they will be back for it. Hanging out isn’t helping anyone. As a neighbor I’m glad the police left if that’s what it takes to stop the violence, but they’ll be back, and I worry it may get ugly again.

    • I would expect the police to return eventually with much better manners. But would also appreciate a chance for some peace and quiet after 2 tumultuous weeks.
      I am very sympathetic to the cause of justice and watched in disbelief as police openly demonstrated the exact behavior that was being protested, but I have to work and live in my apt at the border of the park due to COVID and do not have the luxury of going home “elsewhere” to a quiet existence away from the cacophony of non-stop noise found in Cal Anderson Park so that I can work or sleep.
      It has been 3 days of all day/night party with little or no consideration for the people who live here. Loud music and loud “canned” speeches til 4 am have not help engender the feeling of grace and cooperation that I would like to see.
      Please be considerate when visiting and playing in the park and participating in protest that you don’t undermine the goodwill you earned or seek.

  3. “The overwhelming majority of this community is saying we do not want this symbol [the East Precinct] of a corrupt system to remain in our streets,” speaker Mark Anthony told CHS.

    Really? I live on the Hill and he didn’t ask me. Did he take a poll or did he just ask all his weed-smoking buddies and the other riff-raff that is now gathering on the field.

    This precinct needs to be reopened and fully operational. Safety of the residents should be a primary concern.

    • Yeah, I thought this, too. And FWIW I’m a strong supporter of the protests and work being done, but this whole thing has been co-opted by police abolitionists. I assume when he says “overwhelming majority of this community” the community he is referring to is that of the CHAZ, but I’m not sure if even that is true. I think there’s a large amount of “protestors” there that don’t even know why they’re there. It’s great they want to help but yes, I don’t think the “overwhelming majority” of the neighborhood, let alone the city, county or state agree, which is why they aren’t there.

      • Seems like the 1/300th of the state that was chemically poisoned by tear gas in that neighborhood might be “all good” with the precinct leaving. Which is also why no…there are not a large amount of protestors who don’t know why they are there or why they protested (there may be humans now hanging out there who didn’t protest, who knows.)

        Calling them his “weed smoking buddies” and “riff raff” does tell us what side you sway to though! :)

        The police violence in this country has NOT stopped. Watching people comment that the protestors should just gooooo hoooome…is annoying.

  4. CHAZ definitely does NOT speak for me…. I live in District 3 and have *zero* desire to give the East Precinct to anyone…. I have no illusions that crime will simply go away – none, it’s a fantasy and am very disturbed by accounts of amateur armed ‘security’ that feels like it can demand ID from people to walk down a *public* street. You think the police don’t understand people’s rights – that one is civics 101….

    Seattle PD is *already* small and thinly stretched.

    We don’t need to defund them – we need to ADD to them- add mental health professionals that can work with people *before* they get to the point that they become dangerous to themselves or other people, add drug rehabilitation specialists that can get addicts into programs, that cannot be *optional* or left until completed, add social work services to help people leave abusive situations quickly and cleanly, add outreach programs that can help communities and the people that serve them learn to listen to and trust one another.

    If you don’t believe me about the Seattle PD already being small – have a look at some statistics.

    Seattle 9 officers/sq mile
    549 citizens/ officer

    Camden (a supposedly “defunded” police force)
    36 officers/sq mile
    192 citizens/ officer

    LA – 20 officers /sq mile
    404 citizens / officer

    Boston – 24 officers/sq mile
    388 citizens/ officer

    Philadelphia 45 officers/sq mile
    234 citizens/ officer

    Chicago 50 officers/sq mile
    278 citizens/ officer

    Detroit 15 officers/sq mile
    324 citizens/officer

    • Agree completely! After a cooling-off period, the SPD needs to come back to the building. Sawant’s proposal to close it permanently (and to continue the reality that police response times are 3 times what they were) is ridiculous.

    • NO. You say you live in District 3 but you are anonymous and folks do that all the time on here. I’ll respond to some of your points anyway.

      First, they may be somewhat understaffed but it’s not the size that counts, right? Even that way, they manage to fuck it up so more of them would…fuck it up more.

      You are “very disturbed by accounts of amateur armed ‘security’ that feels like it can demand ID from people to walk down a *public* street.”
      This keeps coming up and no one can find anyone to say it actually happened to them…
      “You think the police don’t understand people’s rights – that one is civics 101….”
      Except it is literally why we are protesting, it’s why there is a rebellion going on. The cops don’ understand NON-WHITE people’s rights. DONE.

      “We don’t need to defund them – we need to ADD to them- add mental health professionals that can work with people *before* they get to the point that they become dangerous to themselves or other people, add drug rehabilitation specialists that can get addicts into programs, that cannot be *optional* or left until completed, add social work services to help people leave abusive situations quickly and cleanly, add outreach programs that can help communities and the people that serve them learn to listen to and trust one another.”

      That is defunding. All of those people you mention above? Must NOT be tied into the police department. Defund the cops so you can fund those jobs. Because we already don’t have enough of them. And the ones that were working with the cops…like REACH did with the Nav Team walked away because they couldn’t stand their tactics.

      And anyone who says, “but how will those people be able to go into those situations or deal with those people without the police?” Um because we’ve been doing it for years without them. Just like we’ll keep doing it without them. But we’d do it better and your numbers of mental health crises, DV, homeless folks into drug addiction services and shelter, and other issues would go down. And probably faster.

  5. About 250,000 people voted in the 2019 Council elections (and about 210,000 in the 2017 Mayoral election). How many people are present at CHAZ? I’d guess 2,000 to 10,000. How many in today’s march: probably tens of thousands.

    I was glad to hear the young leaders exhorting the audience to register to vote (and then do so). With our very close races they could make a real difference: they could have got Nikkita Oliver into the Mayoral runoff, and really got her voice heard.

    But we remain a democracy and should decide matters of this importance at the ballot box (OK, mailbox) and not in the streets.

  6. No idea why any activist would fall for this set up. Capitol Hill is a neighborhood that the police and mayor dont live in. So they left cuz they dont live here or care! Ive seen articles years back that SPD had mold problems and need funding for a new building anyway. This will all be covered under their insurance and they will get the cash. If you want to do something that will make change happen focus on converting the east precinct to a community center and focus the noise on Mayor Jenny Durkan’s building. Get her to be affected by the message every day and every night because she is able to just ignore it now. Get her out of office..thats who authorized gas on you! The headline was ‘ mayor bans gas’ but if u took two seconds to read the spd link they posted link on their twitter it clearly said ‘except for highly trained swat teams’ then u saw four swats out here the next day gassing as per the mayors instructions. So it the mayor that has to go! not our neighbors, brothers and sister that live in capitol hill.

  7. Have lived in cap hill/ CD since the 90 ‘s. Garfield high school. Seen all kinds of things and everything..but nothing ever covered in capitolhillseattle news or other news. Past few days just seen a small group of smokers sitting around the intersection of 12th and pine talking to themselves on a broadcasting PA system better suited for a park or other venue. pointless. then them fighting with eachother in a brawl pile like football the seahawks. Uhauls. poor juicebox cant reopen. this is about something bigger. do more! no more mayor durkan!! she authorized every single thing that Spd did last week. Now she gets to play nice? NOOO dont fall for it. This is a joke on us! Right now is a time for grieving, healing from covid19..show caring for all. find compromise tomake positive change real for future generations.

  8. Sawant, sit the f*ck down. This is not your movement. For one second try to take the spotlight off yourself and step back. Sit down. Listen. And shut up.

    • Sawant hijacking issues to suit her own socialist power grab in this city has been her modus operandi since she took office. The socialist movement had people come to Seattle from all over to coordinate a power grad. Beware! The socialist movement and social policies are not the same thing.

  9. The order does not stop the police, it restrains them. Let me quote from order:
    5.1(b) “SPD’s Chief of Police has determined that use of tear gas is the only reasonable alternative available. The Chief of Police may only authorize limited and targeted use of tear gas and must direct it to those causing violent or potentially life-threatening activity.”
    The judge took away the authority of the City Council and Mayor to make decisions about “tear gas”, and has instead placed it into the hands of Chief of Police ( who the mayor/council could replace FWIW ).
    It expires in 14 days.

  10. You guys are TOO loud. Is this BLM seattle king county branch or BLM official squatting at 12th and pine now? Cuz I couldnt participate in the grieving silent March June 12 because I am immunocompromised and high risk for covid19 so I was going to donate $ $ instead but no way. After weeks of hearing SPD incident command on the extraordinarily loud speaker and stressful flash bombs blowing up the neighborhood. Capitol Hill needs a break to regroup and get the ringing in our ears to stop. Everytime u guys scream into your microphone it scares my cats and dogs and causes ptsd triggers of the shit show of a warzone we were all involuntarily stuck in for two weeks. Focus on peace and unity cuz right now cuz youre just driving a lot of supporters and local donations away. Focus on getting an actual contract from the mayor to convert the precint into a restorative justice center and then u can legally use the inside of the building peacefully. Right now mayor is getting of scott free for gassing the people of Seattle.

  11. I’ve become more and more convinced that the true goal of Chaz/Chop is to drive residents insane – the people that have the unfortunate reality of living inside Chaz/Chop. They are accomplishing this by the near constant daily extreme levels of noise.

    I wonder what the outcome will be when 500+ residents have had enough?

    • It’s a relief from tear gas, flash bombs, and every other mess that was thrown. Plus tons of food going to the homeless who for once this year, the Nav Team doesn’t have time to sweep, have a moment to eat.

      Don’t worry…I’m sure Jenny will do something damn stupid in her talks with Nikkita Oliver and BLM any minute and they’ll be back at it.

  12. I just watched videos on YouTube of this young kid going around and interviewing ppl in CHAZ. Omg! What a fucking joke. It’s mostly rich white college kids who are completely naive and make no sense at all. where do they think this is going? This isn’t going to end well or it’s just going to end. Either way it’s not accomplishing anything.
    I can’t believe this is happening in our country.

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