Editor’s note: Due to privacy and safety concerns, most sources opted not to share their last names. The interviews embedded throughout the article may have explicit language.
On June 8, after days of protesting across Seattle, Police boarded up and abandoned the East Precinct, and protesters occupied around 6 blocks of area in Seattle, including the precinct and Cal Anderson Park.
While all that may sound dangerous, what has actually transpired at what is now called the CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupied Protest), formerly the CHAZ (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone) is mostly peaceful, all since the police left.
The inside of the CHOP, also sometimes called a “no cop co-op”, features several booths providing supplies and food to protesters, murals to George Floyd and other victims of police brutality, a community garden, and even a “Conversation Cafe” where occupants discuss topics related to social justice.
Although the CHOP was originally started dedicated to the cause of Black Lives Matter, it has expanded into a statement against police, capitalism, and in solidarity with indigenous tribes and Pride month.
Jerome has been at the CHOP for 5 days, and says he has officially moved in. He is prepared to be here for a full year, assuming the CHOP is still around.
He has helped with organizing supplies, leading protests and chants, and helping de-escalate situations before they get violent.
Jerome said that people are taking up leadership roles when needed.
In regards to the police, he said that it has been peaceful since they left, and that from his experience, it is usually police who start problems.
“They come with a lot of bullshit,” Jerome said.
There are 3 murals across within the zone, where people have brought flowers and candles in memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, as well as many other victims of racist, police brutality over the years, including Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Calvin Horton and many more.
Joanne was helping clean and organize the candles and flowers, and plans to continue to do so. She herself has also brought flowers in memory of those lost.
All over the CHOP there is a plethora of street art commemorating the people killed by police brutality, as well as listing or describing demands in regards to police reform and defunding the police. Lots of the supplies needed for street art can be found at an organization hub just outside the third precinct.
Mala has been helping handing out supplies to people at the hub, which in addition to street art supplies, includes snacks, water and hand sanitizer.
“If you don’t have supplies but have a message to share, this is the place to go to,” she said.
Mala also added that she has been amazed by the amount of people that have shown up to add more street art to the CHOP.
Alexis started adding street art on her first day.
“I want to bring peaceful energy,” she said. She also wanted to emphasize that all Black Lives Matter; black men, black women, and black people in the LGBTQ+ community.
In an effort to provide enough food for all the protesters in the zone, some have started a community garden with a variety of foods.
Cassandra first came to check out the zone and what was going on, but now she is helping facilitate work within the gardens.
They have grown tomatoes, beans, herbs, broccoli and many other foods. There is also a garden dedicated to indigenous communities, growing what is sometimes referred to as the “Three Sisters,” a combination of crops grown for thousands of years by indigenous groups.
Cassandra herself is part Chippewa, particularly related to the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa people in North Dakota.
Cassandra wanted to point out that beyond providing food for the protesters, this is also about indigenous representation and food sovereignty (the right of peoples to healthy and culturally-appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods).
“This is anti-racist work,” she said.
Crystal is one of the gardeners helping out, growing Zucchini, beans and Goji berries in three separate boxes close by the community garden.
Crystal wanted to emphasize that white people are racist in more ways than they realize. She said oftentimes racism manifests in small ways, such as avoiding walking near BIPOC on a sidewalk or talking over them (some refer to these as micro-aggressions).
Raven represents indigenous americans on various tribal councils, at the federal level. He is a part of the Apache tribe, and is helping communicate any environmental concerns people have, such as where to place gardens, where to dig and where not to dig (since there are pipes below the ground).
Raven is proud of what Black Lives Matter has accomplished, and is optimistic about its future.
“Black Lives Matter is now in France. I don’t think the movement will die out anytime soon,” he said.