In past editions as CHS has attempted to tally the most important stories from the year, many of our biggest came and went with the relentless flow of news and other stories to tell. But in 2020, those stories never ended and will continue into 2021.
To break through the fog of COVID-19 and a year of unrest and protest on Capitol Hill, we need to consider the Year in Review through the prism of some of the individual stories that formed the larger narratives around the pandemic and the protests. This year, it might be more accurate to call them Capitol Hill’s most important news moments — pieces of the larger issues that dominated the year in Central Seattle.
Viewed at that level, there is also some room to see a few smaller but still important chapters in the year that was including closures of some loved small businesses and bits of the fabric that made up life here in 2020 like, yes, a tofu shortage.
In 2019, by the way, readers said the race for the District 3 seat on the City Council was the story of the year. This year, we are also again asking you about your optimism for the year ahead. We get the feeling those measurements may have changed over the past year.
Given all that, here is a look at some of the most important news moments around Capitol Hill in 2020. Thanks for reading and being part of CHS.
- COVID mask requirements: Condensing the pandemic’s impact on Capitol Hill into a single story or moment puts the virus in another light. Our experience of the crisis has been an inevitable, monotonous dread. CHS has been amazed and filled with gratitude that our readers have continued to stick with the story through the months as we have done our best to provide regular updates with the proper mix of caution and hope. For this tally of the year in review, we select one moment in the COVID crisis. On Monday, May 11th, CHS reported on the start of requirements for wearing face masks in Seattle and King County. While it was one of the early steps in months of restrictions, the moment also represented an important shift in the response to the pandemic as science won out over politics and bureaucratic resource management. Masks, for most on Capitol Hill, were new in 2020. They’ll still be part of us in 2021 — and undoubtedly beyond.
- CHOP formation: What moment in a season of unrest tells the biggest, most important story for the neighborhood? One might be the article we posted on June 9th, 2020 as the East Precinct was abandoned and protesters and community groups announced a new autonomous zone around 12th and Pine and Cal Anderson Park. “Yesterday we were on 11th and Pine. Today we have victory on 12th and Pine. They tried to stop us!,” one protester yelled during a turn on the bullhorn. “I guess whatever the fuck we’re doing is effective,” said another. What followed was organization, art, music, gardening, and rallying and marching for Black Lives Matter. The challenges of collective organizing and mutual aid, terrible incidents of deadly violence, plus endless clashes with police would come next. But the start of CHOP at its most hopeful deserves to be remembered on its own.
CHOP sweeps: Did we learn more from the formation of CHOP? Or the police raids, sweeps, and clearances that removed protesters and campers from the streets and Cal Anderson Park multiple times through the year? July 1st set the tone as police under executive order from Mayor Jenny Durkan overwhelmed the first iteration of CHOP to make arrests and begin the process of removing barriers and encampments. As winter arrived, the action was mirrored with another SPD-led sweep, this time to clear Cal Anderson despite CDC recommendations after months of camping in the park.
The death of Summer Taylor: The tragic cost and self sacrifice of protest were made all to clear on the night of the Fourth of July as Summer Taylor was struck and killed by a motorist who somehow sped around closures as Taylor and a group of protesters danced on I-5. Taylor, an activist and a Capitol Hill resident and worker, was 24.
- Recall Sawant: Kshama Sawant’s political battles stretched from a Black Lives Matter occupation in City Hall to the front steps of Mayor Jenny Durkan’s home. In a year of protest and fighting back against Seattle’s establishment, you could say Sawant — now the most senior serving member on the Seattle City Council — is entering her political prime. But 2020 brought heavy storm clouds with a recall battle that, apparently, won’t be brushed away without more significant battles.
- Capitol Hill closures: The health crisis also brought an economic crisis that all the federal aid programs, eviction moratoriums, and customer goodwill in the world couldn’t stop. Dozens of favorite shops and restaurants were forced to call it quits as the virus spread and restrictions were put in place. As representatives, we select two Broadway closures from different points on the business spectrum. In May, the Capitol Hill location of Urban Outfitters shuttered after 30 years of business. In August, we lost Ha Na, the Broadway sushi joint that many said was their first exposure to the Japanese cuisine phenomena as it first appeared in Seattle in the ’80s. There have been several more and will be more as the pandemic plays out. But we also chose this set for another reason. Ha Na’s closure, its ownership said, was about closing down due to the COVID-19 restrictions. But the huge, now empty space that had been home to Urban Outfitters? Turns out, its closure had been in the works for months before the pandemic even began.
- Smoke season returns: After a 2019 without a smoke season, a “super massive” plume of smoke from Western wildfires enveloped Capitol Hill and Seattle in September delivering a dose of terrible air quality and a startling reminder of our swiftly changing planet
- Seattle Asian Art Museum reopens: It came back to us just as we couldn’t have it. After three years of closure for construction, Volunteer Park’s SAAM returned briefly back to life in February to unveil the $56 million renovation that brought new life to the 87-year-old building’s Depression-era version of art deco grandeur. It will hopefully re-reopen soon in 2021.
- The great Capitol Hill COVID tofu shortage of 2020: Through it all, 2020 also provided some “that’s so Capitol Hill” stories. For those of you who like a little ha ha in your history and your nostalgia, we include this CHS report from April about why tofu was (temporarily) in short supply during the pandemic.
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