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'We’re the sacrificial lamb of this moment.' Businesses in CHOP worry about their future

Jennifer Wing
Business in and around the CHOP Zone in Seattle say they are suffereing financially and worry about the future of the neighborhood.

Some small businesses and nonprofits located in Seattle's Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone, or CHOP, are not only worried about their financial futures, but also the future of the neighborhood as a whole.

KNKX checked in with three businesses and two nonprofits. While many were willing to talk, they would only talk candidly if they could remain anonymous.

While some restaurants are doing OK, most retail stores and nonprofits are staying closed — due to safety concerns. They say customers are simply not coming to the area to shop.

Businesses are worried that whenever the CHOP zone clears out, this area of Capitol Hill — a diverse and vibrant community — will be a ghost town because businesses won't financially survive.

If that happens, one business owner said, it will be a failure on the part of city leaders. 

“It's on the city for not having a strategy to work with this, not just to shut it down or let it continue, but to respond to it in a meaningful way,” the shop owner said. 

She wants the city to seriously respond to protesters’ demands, including defunding the Seattle Police Department by 50 percent and putting that money toward communities of color.

The shop owner said the city faces tough choices. She’s worried that if the city tries to move too fast to shut CHOP down, the neighborhood will go up in flames. And if the city lets the situation continue as it has these last few weeks, then the neighborhood will slowly die.

“So either way, we're the sacrificial lamb to this moment, which I don't know, maybe somebody has to be and so be it, you know," the small business owner said. "But, I wish and I hope that instead of just letting the neighborhood crumble under the weight of either of those responses, that there could be a meaningful response followed by action and real communication and real structural change.” 

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Thursday, in a joint press conference with the Seattle police chief, that “it’s time for people to go home” and leave the CHOP. It’s unclear when the city will take action.

Chief Carmen Best said Seattle police also plan to return to the abandoned East Precinct.

The news came after several shootings were reported in the CHOP over the weekend.

Sources tell KNKX that businesses who support the Black Lives Matter movement, but express concerns about CHOP, have been targeted by people in the CHOP. One business owner says fellow merchants have reported harassment and doxing, which involves publicly publishing private information on the internet.  

Businesses also say they are receiving multiple out-of-state phone calls that they liken to internet trolling from people who are critical of CHOP. 

Many of the people who operate restaurants and retail in and around CHOP support the protesters and the cause, but as one merchant who wished to remain anonymous put it: “A lot of us have gone out of our way to try to support the protests in the way that we can. But we can't do that if we don't exist.”

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.