Rantz: CHOP Seattle activists already blocking lanes city opened

Jun 16, 2020, 9:19 PM | Updated: Jun 17, 2020, 11:46 am
At 12th and Pine in CHOP, a car blocks a lane the city negotiated to remain open. (Photo: Hanna Scott/KIRO Radio) At 11th and Pine in CHOP, a car blocks a lane the city negotiated to remain open. (Photo: Hanna Scott/KIRO Radio) At 12th and Pine in CHOP, a car blocks a lane the city negotiated to remain open. (Photo: Hanna Scott/KIRO Radio) This was the original plans for CHOP that the city had agreed to. 
              A sign reads "Welcome to CHOP," Sunday, June 14, 2020, inside what has been named the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone in Seattle. Protesters calling for police reform and other demands have taken over several blocks near downtown Seattle after officers withdrew from a police station in the area following violent confrontations. The CHOP name is a change from CHAZ (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone) that was used earlier in the week. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
            Activists are trying to change the name of CHAZ to CHOP, but there's confusion over what the "O" stands for. (Photo: Julio Rosas)

Activists inside CHOP already helped to undo the compromise agreement the city of Seattle made with organizers. Who could have seen this coming?

Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office announced Tuesday morning that there was an agreement with stakeholders, including CHOP organizers, to reopen parts of streets within the occupied zone so that they can be accessible to area residents, employees, and emergency personnel. Under the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), the city brought in heavy concrete barriers separating (and protecting) the space for protesters and the lanes for traffic.

A few hours after the work was complete, cars were strategically parked to block the lanes from being used by vehicular traffic.

Phoenix Jones supports CHOP, but says ‘you can’t just not enforce laws’

CHOP activists blocked the lane

The open lanes at the intersections of 12th and Pine and 11th and Pine were both blocked as of at least 6:20 p.m., just under five hours since SDOT mostly finished their work. The cars appear to be strategically placed at the spot to block the lanes. In other words, this was almost assuredly intentional.

In a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Seattle Fire Department Chief Harold Scoggins explained he had been concerned about safety with the lack of vehicular access to the area.

“The neighborhood had a lot of concerns,” Chief Scoggins explained.

The CHOP difficulty

CHOP isn’t occupied by one singular group, but a number of different activists from a number of different organizations — or no organizations at all. That makes negotiating these kinds of barricade-additions more tenuous. Scoggins noted that he spoke with a “constantly changing group of people” as the city tried to execute this plan.

When you have no leadership, it means considerable numbers of people will be left out of the discussions. If a small group is unhappy, they can sabotage the plans. And it’s clear not everyone was happy with the plans. The city did not respond to a request seeking information on which organizers were part of the negotiations.

Hopefully cooler heads prevail and the cars will be gone by the morning. This is very clearly a safety issue. It’s also about allowing people who live and work in the area to not feel like they’re hostages.

If the activists have problems with the police, they should at least try to be better neighbors to the residents and businesses. Giving them back some of the space — while making it easier for EMTs and Fire to do their jobs — seems like an easy compromise. How does offering some piece of mind to residents, businesses, and the fire department fly in the face of the activists’ cause?

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter and Instagram or like me on Facebook

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Rantz: CHOP Seattle activists already blocking lanes city opened