LOCAL NEWS

Observations from inside Seattle’s CHOP

Jun 20, 2020, 10:18 AM | Updated: Jun 22, 2020, 10:54 am
Scenes a renovated CHOP where Seattle Fire Seattle DOT have made room for vehicles to get by part of occupied Capitol Hill including these new barriers that art is being placed on. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Scenes a renovated CHOP where Seattle Fire Seattle DOT have made room for vehicles to get by part of occupied Capitol Hill including these new barriers that art is being placed on. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Scenes a renovated CHOP where Seattle Fire Seattle DOT have made room for vehicles to get by part of occupied Capitol Hill including these new barriers that art is being placed on. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Scenes a renovated CHOP where Seattle Fire Seattle DOT have made room for vehicles to get by part of occupied Capitol Hill including these new barriers that art is being placed on. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) There seems to be a regrouping to really get all those here to stay on message and fight for an end to systemic racism and police killings of people of color and about educating those who have come to check out what’s happening at CHOP. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) There seems to be a regrouping to really get all those here to stay on message and fight for an end to systemic racism and police killings of people of color and about educating those who have come to check out what’s happening at CHOP. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) There seems to be a regrouping to really get all those here to stay on message and fight for an end to systemic racism and police killings of people of color and about educating those who have come to check out what’s happening at CHOP. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) There seems to be a regrouping to really get all those here to stay on message and fight for an end to systemic racism and police killings of people of color and about educating those who have come to check out what’s happening at CHOP. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) The scene at CHOP as Seattle Fire Chief meets with demonstrators while Seattle DOT moved barriers. At first glance It looks like this area has shrunk by at least 3 blocks as far as occupied area KIRO Radio. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) The scene at CHOP as Seattle Fire Chief meets with demonstrators while Seattle DOT moved barriers. At first glance It looks like this area has shrunk by at least 3 blocks as far as occupied area KIRO Radio. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) The scene at CHOP as Seattle Fire Chief meets with demonstrators while Seattle DOT moved barriers. At first glance It looks like this area has shrunk by at least 3 blocks as far as occupied area KIRO Radio. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Here outside Seattle Fire HQ awaiting an update from Chief Scoggins on what Seattle did today on CHOP to ensure locals/EMTs can get to the neighborhood on Capitol Hill occupied by demonstrators for over a week now. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) 
@KIRORadio. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Here outside Seattle Fire HQ awaiting an update from Chief Scoggins on what Seattle did today on CHOP to ensure locals/EMTs can get to the neighborhood on Capitol Hill occupied by demonstrators for over a week now. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Very mellow atmosphere at the CHOP in Seattle protest so far tonight. Fewer people according to biz owners I’ve spoken too and a lot of families walking around to educate their kids. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Very mellow atmosphere at the CHOP in Seattle protest so far tonight. Fewer people according to biz owners I’ve spoken too and a lot of families walking around to educate their kids. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Very mellow atmosphere at the CHOP in Seattle protest so far tonight. Fewer people according to biz owners I’ve spoken too and a lot of families walking around to educate their kids. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Very mellow atmosphere at the CHOP in Seattle protest so far tonight. Fewer people according to biz owners I’ve spoken too and a lot of families walking around to educate their kids. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Some in the CHOP blocked off parts of 11th & 12th again after Seattle DOT and Seattle Fire, Seattle SPU “negotiate” a remodel so EMTs/Delivery/residents can get through. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Some in the CHOP blocked off parts of 11th & 12th again after Seattle DOT and Seattle Fire, Seattle SPU “negotiate” a remodel so EMTs/Delivery/residents can get through. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) The memorials are growing. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) The memorials are growing. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) The memorials are growing. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) The memorials are growing. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Observations: During the middle of this effort some guy from the other area in the park came over and tried to grab a bunch of people off holding this to help move a tent Woman shrugging and volunteer medics behind me were having a terrifying triage discussion the last 45 minutes. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Organizer of this effort appears to be saying we’re going to give it one more try. Tunguska to tell it’s very difficult to hear out here for everyone making the situation more dangerous. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Observations: During the middle of this effort some guy from the other area in the park came over and tried to grab a bunch of people off holding this to help move a tent Woman shrugging and volunteer medics behind me were having a terrifying triage discussion the last 45 minutes. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Observations: During the middle of this effort some guy from the other area in the park came over and tried to grab a bunch of people off holding this to help move a tent Woman shrugging and volunteer medics behind me were having a terrifying triage discussion the last 45 minutes. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Observations: During the middle of this effort some guy from the other area in the park came over and tried to grab a bunch of people off holding this to help move a tent Woman shrugging and volunteer medics behind me were having a terrifying triage discussion the last 45 minutes. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Observations: During the middle of this effort some guy from the other area in the park came over and tried to grab a bunch of people off holding this to help move a tent Woman shrugging and volunteer medics behind me were having a terrifying triage discussion the last 45 minutes. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Just spoke to one upset biz owner painting over “F” word on outside wall, a daily routine. Many still supportive, and this woman supports the change protesters want but says vandalism and impact to biz is too much. Her message to Mayor Jenny Seattle “Do something.' (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott)Just spoke to one upset biz owner painting over “F” word on outside wall, a daily routine. Many still supportive, and this woman supports the change protesters want but says vandalism and impact to biz is too much. Her message to Mayor Jenny Seattle “Do something.' (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Just spoke to one upset biz owner painting over “F” word on outside wall, a daily routine. Many still supportive, and this woman supports the change protesters want but says vandalism and impact to biz is too much. Her message to Mayor Jenny Seattle “Do something.' (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Just spoke to one upset biz owner painting over “F” word on outside wall, a daily routine. Many still supportive, and this woman supports the change protesters want but says vandalism and impact to biz is too much. Her message to Mayor Jenny Seattle “Do something.' (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Just spoke to one upset biz owner painting over “F” word on outside wall, a daily routine. Many still supportive, and this woman supports the change protesters want but says vandalism and impact to biz is too much. Her message to Mayor Jenny Seattle “Do something.' (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) There’s definitely a Seattle PD presence just outside CHOP cops just nabbed a guy for what looks to be suspected shoplifting of some adult beverages a couple blocks over at Union & Broadway. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) There’s definitely a Seattle PD presence just outside CHOP cops just nabbed a guy for what looks to be suspected shoplifting of some adult beverages a couple blocks over at Union & Broadway. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Recycling and sanitation appear to be moving in and out of CHOP this morning (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Recycling and sanitation appear to be moving in and out of CHOP this morning (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Recycling and sanitation appear to be moving in and out of CHOP this morning (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott) Recycling and sanitation appear to be moving in and out of CHOP this morning (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott)

In my nearly two days at the CHOP, I was in search of the truth, the leaders, and the message.

Seattle police investigating shooting at the CHOP

Was it full of gun toting, hostile protesters attacking people and fighting every night? Were local residents and businesses supportive? Who was in charge? What was the point, the message, the end game?

Photos from the CHOP

What I found was a mixed bag of conflicting messages, community, communities, infighting, support and frustration among the locals, plenty of tourists, and no shortage of profanity that, in my opinion, is one of many factors drowning out the important cause that started all of this in the first place.

This was not my first time to the occupied area on Capitol Hill, but it was my first sustained period there where I observed and spoke to people at all hours of the morning, day, and night.

The barriers

On Tuesday afternoon, I arrived to find concrete barriers being placed in a large semi-circle encompassing the East Precinct vacated by Seattle police just over a week earlier. Crews were also moving barriers to allow for one-way traffic to maneuver along East Pine Street, as well as 11th, 12th, and 13th avenues.

The barriers were covered with plywood that quickly became canvasses for tagging and art about the Black Lives Matter movement, lists of names of black people killed by police, and messages about defunding SPD. They quickly resembled the streets and facades of just about every business. Within 12 hours, much of that messaging had turned into profanity.

Within a few hours, some of the occupiers had blocked off roads now meant to allow one-way traffic so  the roads were again impassible. But why? Supposedly the city had negotiated with “leaders” of the occupation to allow those roads to be open.

Shifting boundaries

The problem, I would discover the next morning, was that there are an estimated 20-30 different people who consider themselves leaders. The city had communicated with some of them, but not all. Many felt allowing traffic through or giving the city back any of the occupied area was relenting after they had achieved such a victory taking over the initial six blocks.

Overnight, the barricades and vehicles blocking roads shifted. A huge tent encampment was set up on 11th between Pike and Pine streets, essentially shutting the street down again. A group of mostly white protesters moved fencing to allow locals in and out.

The shifting of the barricades went on through most of my nearly two days at the CHOP, with a much reduced footprint on the streets by the time I left Thursday morning. People in the group told me there was a lot of disagreement about how to proceed. Just walking along 11th Avenue, I could hear them arguing among themselves throughout all of Wednesday.

Pine Street had temporary canopies set up with free food, water, and other items. There were people selling Black Lives Matter T-shirts and others collecting donations for the cause, but what cause? It depends on who you ask.

Aggression?

The area around Cal Anderson Park turns into a party every night. People are drinking. There is a lot of open-air drug use. Half of the park has been turned into a huge tent encampment with a massive community garden. This area is plastered with signage warning people not to film.

One man recently reported being met with aggression when caught filming. I did not have that experience and was allowed to take pictures and walk through the gardens. In fact, I was never met with any aggression no matter where I was.

I did not see anyone openly carrying weapons, nor did anyone I spoke to admit to having any guns. However, some told me there had been people carrying to protect themselves from outside agitators. They had concerns about The Proud Boys and others trying to infiltrate and create a false narrative about what was happening there.

As far as hostilities, I did not see any knock-down drag-out fights, but I did see people getting aggressive on occasion. One man was outraged when he saw Seattle Department of Transportation workers installing one-way street signs along barricades they had placed after a supposed negotiation the city had with so-called leaders of the group.

Messaging

There were general assembly meetings outside the East Precinct multiple times throughout the day and night with speakers addressing the original message on ending systemic racism and police reform, LBGTQ issues, anti-government rhetoric, and dozens of other messages.

Some residents walking through the area told me they felt unsafe and abandoned by the city, but many others were supportive of the efforts on police reform and ending systemic racism. However, some felt that message was lost in the noise of the “occupation.”

Many businesses told me the tourist attraction that the area had become was good for business, but others were tired of finding graffiti outside their front windows every day and called on the city to do something.

Black community activists I spoke with had grown frustrated and left Wednesday night, feeling the message had been lost to the party and tourist atmosphere.

Perhaps the most collective moment came on Tuesday night when more than a hundred people raised a giant black power fist structure and carried it across Cal Anderson Park. They wanted to stand it on top of a stone building.

You can see how that went here:

 

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Observations from inside Seattle’s CHOP