A look inside Seattle’s newly-formed ‘Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone’
On Monday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that police at the city’s East Precinct would be leaving the area and reopening streets that had been blocked off for almost two weeks. It didn’t take long before what’s become known as the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” began to take shape.
Barriers originally set up by police have been repurposed to set up the borders of the zone. What used to be the Seattle Police Department on the corner of 12th and Pine now reads “Seattle People Department.”
KIRO Radio’s Hanna Scott and Nicole Jennings spent time in the “CHAZ” Tuesday, watching for hours as a hundred or so people began setting up tents, putting up signs, and preparing to set up camp as part of their ongoing protest against police brutality.
“It was a really energetic day — it was very peaceful,” Hanna reported. “Really a whole different vibe than I’d seen the other nights I’ve been there, a very peaceful experience, almost like a street fair honestly.”
Reporting early in the afternoon Tuesday, Nicole also described free food and medical aid available for demonstrators on every corner. Some food and supplies were also distributed to the homeless population in the surrounding area. The group even reportedly organized its own garbage collection Wednesday morning.
Later on in the night, a projector screen was set up, as the crowd gathered to watch Ava DuVernay’s documentary on systemic racism in the U.S. prison system, 13th. News of that reached DuVernay herself, who gave the group a shoutout on Twitter.
The crowd stationed at 12th and Pine is trying to prove in can operate on its own without the police no longer occupying the East Precinct.
“Their position is that they can take care of themselves,” Hanna said.
The group also recently published a lengthy 30-point list of demands for Seattle City Council and the Mayor’s Office. Some go far beyond what councilmembers like Teresa Mosqueda and Kshama Sawant have proposed in recent days, including a call to “abolish the Seattle Police Department and the attached Criminal Justice Apparatus.”
Other demands on the list are more wide-ranging, including rent control, restoration of city arts funding, and free college across Washington state.
Speakers throughout the day addressed smaller-scale changes as well, including one who stressed the importance of investing in black-owned businesses.
It’s unclear how long the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone will be allowed to remain in the area around 12th and Pine, or even how long police plan to stay out of the East Precinct. In the meantime, though, the crowd appears hunkered down for the long run.