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Sawant and protesters — briefly — occupy Seattle City Hall as Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone grows — UPDATE

Several hundred demonstrators, led by Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant, occupied City Hall downtown Tuesday night for just over an hour, calling for the resignation of Mayor Jenny Durkan and the defunding of the Seattle Police Department after a march from the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.

Protesters entered chanting “Whose City Hall? Our City Hall” before listening to a number of speakers at the “people’s mic,” as Sawant called it, on a range of issues, from the importance of Black LGBTQIA+ women in recent protests to taxing the council member’s familiar foe.

“It is about building the kind of political representation that brings the voice of the people into the halls of power and grabs power for ordinary people,” Sawant said. Starting Wednesday, “the City Council is going to be discussing budget issues, meaning two very important demands for us: Defund SPD and Tax Amazon.”

Many protesters also stayed behind to maintain a presence in the zone around 12th and Pine. Others spoke out saying the community, not politicians, should drive decisions around the camp growing outside the large police precinct emptied of equipment and boarded with plywood. So far, the boards have remained in place.

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At City Hall, after a song telling Durkan “You about to lose your job”, another speaker decried Sawant’s cooptation of the movement to push her own agenda.

“Please stop using Black Lives Matter for your political campaigns,” the speaker said, also noting the whiteness of many speakers at recent protests. “I’m really sorry, I want to tax Amazon too, I want to do all these things too, but this is not a movement for you to be politically active, for you to be politically correct, and for you to gain all these votes. Please stop taking advantage of us.”

Sawant also had critical words for her council colleagues, who she called “corporate politicians” and “sellouts.”

“When I’m sitting on the dais, every moment I remind myself they’re not my people, you’re my people,” she said on the steps up to the council chamber.

Protesters left City Hall chanting “Defund SPD” and headed back east to Cal Anderson Park and the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, where protesters watched 13th, a documentary on mass incarceration, on a projector. A new sign hung outside the East Precinct that said “this space is now property of the Seattle people.”

The impromptu peaceful visit comes just a day after the SPD ceded its East Precinct at 12th and Pine, where protesters created the CHAZ which continued to sprout Tuesday as demonstrators watched a documentary in the evening and filled the space with food and beverages.

‘Welcome to Free Capitol Hill’ — Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone forms around emptied East Precinct — UPDATE

It also came after a two-hour rally on the turf field at Cal Anderson Park, where an estimated 2,000 protesters gathered in the rain for a community meeting hosted by Sawant in which about a dozen speakers from activists to religious leaders spoke.

“What we’ve defeated here is the political establishment of this city,” Sawant said, referring to the “victory” of taking over the SPD’s East Precinct and calling out gentrification in the city and police killings over the last decade. “Our fight is not just against the police, our fight is for systemic change.”

K. Wyking Garrett of Africatown Community Land Trust called on city leaders to “pay the fee” for centuries of unfair treatment, several speakers called for the removal of the Seattle Police Officers Guild from the MLK Labor Council, and Rev. Robert Jeffrey of the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church talked of being stopped by police more than 50 times.

“I’ve been hit in the stomach with batons, I’ve gone through everything and experienced the total demonic structures that is Seattle,” said Jeffrey, who is Black. “What happened to George Floyd happens to Black Americans in this country everyday.”

Jeffrey closed his remarks by repeatedly telling protesters to “fight on.”

The weekend saw two straight nights of aggressive dispersal tactics from law enforcement, including the deployment of tear gas Sunday night, before the Seattle Police Department essentially abandoned its east precinct on 12th and Pine that it had been guarding for a week, even leaving the front door open despite extensive fencing and wood panels covering the building.

Sawant arrived at the peaceful teach-in with minimal police presence Monday evening donning her Tax Amazon mask and lauded the multi racial solidarity of the movement against police brutality and called for a demilitarization of law enforcement.

One protester grilled her on whether or not she would abolish the police before mocking her accent and having the crowd turn on him. She said police abolition was impossible in the current political system.

“You can never have zero police and an elimination of racism and oppression on the basis of capitalism,” Sawant said at about 11PM Monday night at the 12th and Pine intersection.

Sawant, who was at the front of another demonstration on Sunday after giving a speech a few hours earlier at another protest in Rainier Beach, said she was maced as tensions escalated that night.

The next day, she introduced two pieces of legislation related to police handling of the protests. One would ban the use of all types of chemical weapons and the other would ban police from employing chokeholds.

Knowing the who, what, and how of the zone shifts from moment to moment. Tents are beginning to sprout as some protesters move in joining the neighborhood’s shelters and sleeping spaces already created by people experiencing homelessness. Official looking street signs proclaiming “WELCOME TO CAPITOL HILL AUTONOMOUS ZONE” and showing the exit to “FREE CAPITOL HILL” have gone up. There is a food co-op, an idea for a flag, and designated no smoking zones.

Misinformation — some innocent, some trolling efforts at dissent — abounds across social media and infects even smaller reservoirs of information including the CHS comments. CHS is investigating claims raised including the presence of firearms in the camp and rumors of businesses being asked to help pay for security.

A list of demands has been published and has been shared widely by people on the ground and familiar with the reality of the situation in the CHAZ. The 30-point list is posted here. It is high-minded — “We demand the de-gentrification of Seattle, starting with rent control” — and much of it will take years. Removing Mayor Durkan, Sawant and her office should note, did not make the list.

Though Durkan has remained silent on the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, the city has not abandoned Pike/Pine. In a press release that came in the midst of the City Hall protest titled “City Takes Steps to Create Safe Place for Peaceful Demonstrations,” Durkan’s department’s list off their efforts to help:

  • The Seattle Fire Department’s (SFD) mission is to save lives and protect property.Recognizing that the Seattle Police Department (SPD) East Precinct is adjacent to residential and commercial buildings, SFD has and may continue to upstaff resources near the area to ensure crews are appropriately equipped to respond to fires and medical emergencies when it’s safe to do so. Several City departments have taken steps to improve access to the area for fire apparatus should an emergency occur. Additionally, with recent intentionally set bonfires, dumpster fires and attempts at structure fires, the department shared information on arson awareness and steps businesses and residences in the vicinity can take. 
  • To help keep the area safe and clean, Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is picking up debris and trash,  has cleaned graffiti that displayed hate, racist, and vulgar language or concepts, and has arranged for garbage cans and portable toilets to be placed in the vicinity for use by demonstrators. Streets are closed from 10th to 13th on Pine and on 11th between Olive and Pike.
  • In an effort to improve site access for firefighters and prevent arson  fires in dumpster receptacles, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) cleaned and/or removed  50 dumpsters or carts from the area in the last 24-hours. To keep the area cleanly, waste pick-up for businesses and protesters is ongoing, and daily debris removal efforts from the right-of-way continue. SPU crews continue to assist with graffiti abatement and proactive and reactive board-up of windows. In addition to SPR facilities, there are currently at least 12 portable toilets in the vicinity. 
  • To keep Cal Anderson Park a safe and cleanly gathering area, the Parks Department (SPR) is helping with garbage and debris clean-up, weeding and tree trimming, repair of damaged garden beds, and removal of graffiti. The department has also worked to repair damaged fencing and bathrooms, and is providing support for boarding-up local businesses. An artist has been brought in to create a mural at the Park. Lights at Cal Anderson will stay on until 4 a.m. to keep the area well lit. 
  • To help inform local small businesses of the City’s efforts and what to expect with regards to first responders operations, the Office of Economic Development (OED) canvassed area businesses. 
  • Tonight, the Seattle Police Department will continue to answer 911 calls throughout the city, including those serviced by the East Precinct.

“Last night’s decision to take down the barricades and allow protesters to freely move in and around Capitol Hill was an important step in the City’s efforts to lead with de-escalation and rebuild community trust,” it reads. “The City is committed to creating a safe space for peaceful demonstrations, and will also take steps to minimize property damage or potential injuries.”

The role of SPD in all of this remains murky. Overnight, officers responded to a lighter than normal night of calls. But there were also moments of confusion.

Around 9 PM, a dispatch request to checkout a report of a possible fire being started in an alley was met with an usual response from police. “That appears to be in the New Republic of Capitol Hill,” a police officer responded. “Uh, they can handle that.”

Twenty minutes later after reports of the exchange spread, officers were again dispatched and reported to the scene. By the time they arrived, police learned the 911 caller had taken things into her own hands, using a fire extinguisher to put out the small fire — and spray away the alleged perpetrator.

UPDATE 1:25 PM: In the first public comments from a city official following the exit of police officers from the East Precinct, Assistant Chief Deanna Nollette said the building has not been abandoned.

In a brief, 10-minute appearance with media, Nollette said SPD had not pulled officers out of the area, only removed the department’s visible presence and boarded up building.

“If the East Precinct were to catch on fire, there is a possibility the fire could spread and a very real possibility that those businesses and residents would be affected,” Nollette said of the blocks near 12th and Pine.

The assistant chief reiterated the explanation given by Chief Best and the mayor that a threat of burning down the building identified as credible by the FBI drove the decision to lockdown the building and that the safest plan was to secure the structure.

Nollette said SPD is working to identify those responsible for the threats and that the department remains “dedicated to working with peaceful protesters.”

SPD says its officers also did not accompany Tuesday night’s march from Capitol Hill to City Hall because it was peaceful and did not warrant law enforcement presence.

In her brief, the assistant chief raised allegations and reports about illegal activities at the camp but did not say the department was investigating specific examples or that there was evidence that it was happening.

“We have heard anecdotally of citizens and businesses being asked to pay a fee to operate within this area; this is crime of extortion,” Nolette said, referring to a comment posted to CHS by a purported area business owner. That commenter has not replied to our requests for more details about the allegation and the FBI told CHS Wednesday it had received no reports and no information about that kind of activity in the area.

“If anyone has been subjected to this, we need them to call 911,” Nolette said.

“We have been hearing from community members that they have been subjected to barricades set up by the protesters with some armed individuals running them as checkpoints in the neighborhood,” Nolette said. “While they have a constitutionally protected right to bear arms there is no legal right for those arms to be used to intimidate community members.”

UPDATE 2: Accounts from residents describe a small number of people armed with rifles who have been seen serving as guards near parking garages and areas where motor vehicles travel near the camp.

While Nolette’s words will hopefully be reassuring to those concerned about a lack of police presence around Capitol Hill and the Central District, CHS reported on overnight East Precinct radio dispatches in which calls near the protest zone were sometimes declined by officers.

The assistant chief said the department is planning to hold daily briefings on the situation. Wednesday’s session took place downtown at SPD headquarters — far from the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.

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86 thoughts on “Sawant and protesters — briefly — occupy Seattle City Hall as Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone grows — UPDATE” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. Sawant led them inside City Hall?? The rest of us are told it’s too dangerous to go to the office, to the gym, to church… but it’s okay for hundreds of people to shout in each other’s faces inside City Hall? I assume all of these protesters are going to self-isolate for 14 days to limit transmission to the vulnerable among us… oh wait.

    If the protests were for a right-wing cause (eg anti-abortion, etc), the protesters would be called grandma killers and told to go home.

    I’m glad that the BLM protests are happening, but can we please do away with the double standards for certain protesters vs the rest of us.

  2. So a thousand people have hijacked Seattle and City Hall is letting them get away with it? This city is indeed a disaster. Small business owner hipsters in this so called zone must be livid.

  3. Yo, we need to clean up these bots in the comments ya’ll! All these people claiming their voices in public spaces are the most beautiful thing we’ve ever seen in our lifetimes, the world over… BLACK LIVES MATTER! DEFUND SPD! DURKAN OUT NOW!

    • From this article: “Sawant also had critical words for her council colleagues, who she called “corporate politicians” and “sellouts.”

      “When I’m sitting on the dais, every moment I remind myself they’re not my people, you’re my people,” she said on the steps up to the council chamber.”

      These quotes prove absolutely how divisive Sawant is. She, not the Mayor, needs to go.

      • Bob, why don’t you start your own March or movement? Oh that’s right, you are glued to your keyboard day and night frothing while you smash F5 waiting for a mention of Sawant because she absolutely consumes your mind. Go for a walk.

      • I am far from the only one who criticizes Sawant. And I already go for a daily walk, thank you very much.

        How about you comment on issues, and forgo the personal attacks?

  4. Last night Raz Simone and his militia exiled several people from the CHAZ who he convicted of graffiti. There’s a video here: My understanding is that Raz is governing this neighborhood now, but his troops are currently limiting their active patrolling to after dark. Some CHAZers want to challenge Raz for leadership of the neighborhood but he has us outguned.

    • “Some CHAZers want to challenge Raz for leadership of the neighborhood but he has us outguned.” –> I mean “them”… this is only what I’ve heard so not sure if it’s true or not.

    • ‘Raz’ clearly has a proclivity for violence. Especially after his altercation with Omari and now this. And for what? Because he doesn’t approve of the placement of someone’s tag?
      Sometime soon he will cross paths with someone who will take his head off. What a clown

    • Raz or whomever saying “I’m the police now.” Priceless. The girl doing the video justifying using force after verbal negotiations fail. Priceless. Y’all are the biggest damned hypocrites ever born.

      • Definitely not a bot bud. What’s the plan for the CHAZ? Are we going to execute a pincer movement and encircle all of The Hill? Think we can erect a hydroelectric generator on Lake Washington so we can power The CHAZ when our benevolent city overlords cut the lights? What a joke.

  5. It will be interesting to see if the Council votes to reduce their salaries during this difficult time. I would be especially interested in Council member Sawant’s thoughts on how she understands how tax revenues contribute to funding her salary

  6. Republicans hate it when American citizens exercise their first amendment rights to protest. They love the second amendment but hate the first amendment because that amendment puts voices to those that the right wants to suppress!

    Jenny Durkan needs to step down! She has lost the trust of Seattle citizens and needs to step down ASAP or be impeached and removed! Same with the Seattle police chief!

    • 1st amendment says PEACEFULLY ASSEMBLE not riot and loot. Send in the Marines and take the city back. Elect people that actually help ur city instead of run it in the ground. Oh yeah that would take u to actually look at what they stand for instead of just voting democrats in. Think about it

  7. This experiment could have a very sad ending. The CHAZ “people police” are just people who own guns, they have no training as police. How are us residents supposed to feel living here when untrained “police” are going around at night vetting us or chasing after our cars with assault rifles? CHAZ “people police” have no training and less than 48 hours of “on the job experience” so far. No training, no body cameras, no oversight. I’m pretty sure military-style assault rifles in the streets goes against what this neighborhood stands for Something could easily go wrong.

  8. Interesting that these “anarchists” have adopted the phrasings of a well known pedophile. “CHAZ” is taken from Hakim Bey’s ( Robert Lamborn Wilson) idea of Temporary Autonomous Zones, which he used to promote pedophilia. He was also openly anti-choice.

    Watch this, it will quickly devolve and sadly has nothing to do with BLM who will quickly dissociate from this.

    How quickly anti-fascists become fascist

  9. Can someone clarify for me. The city is still providing services in the form of fire, water, power & sanitation for this zone. Doesn’t that go against the idea that they are “autonomous”?

    If they really want to be an independent society, then they need to be supplying everything for themselves not just cherry-picking the areas that they want to deal with while ignoring all the other things that make society function.

    If they don’t want to be an independent society, then, frankly, I’m even more confused. It’s like watching angry children who “run away from home” but end up hiding in the garage until their snacks run out.

  10. Raz Simone is now the gun toting, protester assaulting, self proclaimed “Police” of the so called CHAZ. This man is a menace. He assaulted two black men at a BLM protest. He now walks the streets of Capitol Hill with an assault rifle and pistol. Does anyone see the hypocrisy? How does someone who assaults two people in three days have the ability to still carry a firearm?

  11. I’d heard that Raz and his crew are mobilizing their forces to take the residential neighborhood around Belmont and Bellevue sometime tomorrow which is being called “Durkan’s Palaces” presumably because the addresses – mostly Old Cap Hill mansions – are sources of donations to Durkan in the PDC files. However, between the lines, it seems it really has more to do with the disrespect some CHAZers have shown them linked with a concern that the movement may go the way of Occupy if it doesn’t score fresh headlines. I say good riddance. CHAZ will be better off with them gone.

  12. Keep it up. Get Trump re-elected. Dummies.

    Insert leftist low testosterone skaterBoyz comment or “I care about black people who’s David Dorn?” reply.

    Just a pathetic display by Democrats. Equally delicious how every one of these crisis comes from democratic cities. Idiots. Ever notice that? Odd how Alabama and other ‘racist’ areas don’t have these crisis with ‘endless crime against black people by the white police’. Just as odd as all of these gun free zones that kill so many of you. And now you ‘build a wall/barriers’. Love it. Dummies.

    • You’d have to be super-clueless (or, maybe just chiming in from the Ozarks) to believe any of these Anarchists or Communists have a single tie to the Democratic Party.

      In fact, the far left has much more vitriol reserved for moderate Dems and regular old liberals than they do for the semi-literate politicians you MAGA Cult nutjobs worship.

      Disruption and “revolution” is what the freaks on either end of the political spectrum are all about. Which is why you have more in common with these Berningman occupiers than you would ever care to admit.

  13. Many businesses and residential buildings in the so called C.H.A.Z. are considering paying for security staff or have already done so. The entire area is basically lawless, and we are left to fend for ourselves. Due to the police not being able to respond for fear of reprisal and the shear amount of police resources required that makes it possible to have any presents in our area, residents need to have an emergency plan that does not involve 911. Whether it is contacting friends, family or driving someone or yourself to the emergency room. You can still call 911 for help with planning and dealing with emergencies, but they may ask that you attempt to make your way to one of their other locations or possibly deal with a significant delayed response.

    • “Right now, we are on priority calls only, which means the people, city wide who need a police response are not receiving it,” Nolette said. “That to us is just not acceptable”.

  14. I am wondering who is going to supply governmental services to the populace since they have now declared themselves independent from the United States? There are several services that independent nations must provide to its citizenry or others will step in to provide services outside of the purview of government.

    Who is providing medical services?

    Who is providing mental health services?

    Since autonomy has been declared from the United States when are negotiations going to start with the
    United States government for a trade agreement? 

    What textiles/pharmaceuticals/food are you going to produce that will meet the needs of the populace as well as providing a means of trade with other nations?

    What are your laws? 

    Will criminals be given due process?

    Will detaining a criminal require a probably cause statement for a judge to read during the magistration process? 

    Will jails be set up with certain rights afforded to convicted criminals?

    Will you produce your own currency or will you rely on the dollar as your means of barter and trade?

    Will people found to be breaking international standardized laws (human trafficking) be extradited back to the United States?   

    Will you have elected leaders?

    Will there be a process to recall elected leaders who are found to be corrupt?

    Do you even give a sh@t about any of this stuff that is the norm in the United States?

    I suspect no :) 

      • “autonomous from the police, not from the United States.”

        You mean not autonomous from their parents.

    • It’s the Burningman kind of autonomous, where radical self-expression is all you need (along with a trust fund)

      The same people who ran the Black Coffee “workers’ cooperative” into the ground after a year or two now think they can run a neighborhood & a city.

      Anarchy kids will always be dumb like that.

  15. You’d think they’d do this is in a black neighborhood but I guess our hipster protestors prefer to be near craft beers and espressos and not actual, you know, working class black people.

  16. All the city has to do is encourage homeless people to start moving in. A few good robberies, overdoses and rapes and the kids will run back to their parents.

  17. So let me get this straight, hipster white anarchists create a “police free” autonomous zone and almost immediately a black man comes in with a gun and starts terrorizing hipster white anarchists?

    How long before hipster white anarchists need to call the cops when one of them gets shot?

    A MAGA troll couldn’t write this!

  18. I am a lifelong Seattleite (born and raised), and a resident of Capitol Hill since 1976. I used to love my city and my neighborhood, but I no longer feel that way.

    • I’m admittedly genuinely curious if “Bob the young pediatrician” would have appreciated what’s going on now, if it were happening back in 1976.

      I recall that you self-identified as being more quieter, and probably not drawn to larger, chaotic events like these.

      But I also wonder whether Bob have changed over the past 45 years?

      From a distance (OK, 1 mile away), I admit I find it exciting to see societally marginalized groups of people come together and challenge themselves to ask what kind of shared identity they want. To me, that falls more into the historic spirit of places like Capitol Hill, the Castro district (etc) — rather than expensive dormitories for tech workers.

      • ” I admit I find it exciting to see societally marginalized groups of people come together and challenge themselves to ask what kind of shared identity they want”

        Apparently, they like to create borders to keep strangers out and start threatening each other with guns and violence to maintain “order”.

      • @Barista Brigade: Just curious, were you there? The posts on /r/Seattle (Reddit) and today’s NYC & ST coverage suggested things are going pretty well (and police are available if actually needed).

      • What, did you miss all the videos on Reddit of Raz Simone and his new “police”, armed with AK47, enforcing their “law”, beating people on the street?

        And yes, I did try and check it out yesterday, in the evening and was stopped, asked who I was, why In was there and where I was going and was told to pull my mask down to show my face so they could take a photo.

        You know, “stop and frisk”.

        I refused and left.

      • @Barista Brigade – I did see those (or at least one).

        Anyway, if you’ve been there in person (vs. a random MAGA troll from Spokane), I’ll defer to you.

      • Eli, I find your response — referencing personal information “Bob” did not reveal in his message — disturbing. Very sinister.

      • @Eli: I appreciate your comments, and it’s no problem at all that you referenced some information about me that is part of the public record on CHS.

        To answer your question, I too support much-needed change in police departments as far as how they deal with people of color. I also support a close look at the City budget to see if some SPD money can be safely diverted to other uses.

        I was thrilled when a large, peaceful march went by my home on one of the nights about a week ago, and by other peaceful protests. But I am very disturbed by the actions of the anarchists and far-left people, and by the violence towards the police, property destruction, graffiti, etc. They are selfishly trashing our neighborhood and it has to stop.

      • @Bob!

        I admit from the sources I’m seeing (just streamers & lots of Reddit posts, I’m not seeing much destruction and violence in the CHAZ? (let alone relative to a typical night in Pike/Pine). But I admittedly haven’t even been down there in person yet.

        You probably saw that the person who was lighting cars on fire downtown was from Tacoma:

        Thank you!

  19. So let’s see, the first acts in the creation of their Utopia are:

    – Assert arbitrary, armed dictatorial rule over others
    – Seal their borders
    – Suppress speech and thought
    – Declare war on their neighbor (ie, the USA)
    – Whine that they’re being mistreated by their neighbor (upon whom they have declared war)
    – Run out of food
    – Call their parents and asked to be picked up.

    • @Barista Brigade: I can’t believe that I am responding to your comments (I need to get back to work!). Just curious why are you so upset about this? I might have missed it earlier, but do you live near CHAZ?

  20. Ok so they want to take over 6 city blocks WHY don’t they take over the MAYOR OFFICE and all of the city council office or even better take over the Governor office Oh yea those same MORONS do not have the BALLS.

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