Just a few days ago, parts of Seattle were choked by tear gas, but with the Seattle Police Department’s apparent abandonment of its East Precinct on Monday, what has come to be called the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) has grown over a few blocks in the neighborhood.
The images of crowds standing off with police have largely given way to tents, speeches and documentary screenings. The CHAZ is quickly turning into a constant street fair, with continued peaceful calls to defund the police and for the SPD’s former space to be turned into a community center.
On Wednesday, artists were painting “Black Lives Matter” in white letters leading up to the spot where protesters had clashed with police for a week. Local bookstores were giving away books by Black and indigenous authors. And the Marshall Law Band, which had been playing a block away from the standoff between protesters and law enforcement for days, moved its equipment in front of the precinct to play for the CHAZ.
Police have mostly remained clear of the area since Monday evening, after facing harsh criticism for using tear gas and other crowd-control weapons on protesters.
Assistant Chief Deanna Nollette says the department is looking to reopen the building and resume normal operations.
“We don't want the important message about justice and improving policing relations and improving racial equity to get drowned out by this small kind of faction of what's going on,” Nollette said. “What we want to do is give an opportunity for everyone's tempers to calm and for us to approach the table with a view towards equity and towards dialogue.”
In a YouTube video on the Seattle Police Department’s official channel, Chief Carmen Best addressed officers directly, telling them that boarding up the East Precinct was not her decision.
“I asked you to stand on that line day in and day out, to be pelted with projectiles, to be screamed at, threatened and in some cases hurt,” Best said. “Then to have a change of course two weeks in – it seems like an insult to you and our community.”
KNKX's Parker Miles Blohm and Jake Goldstein-Street were at the CHAZ on Wednesday. See images of the area below.