UPDATED 2:10 PM PT — Thursday, June 11, 2020
Seattle police have said they have reason to believe protesters in the self-proclaimed “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” may be committing criminal offenses. On Wednesday, local officials announced leaders inside the zone, which has been deemed a “co-op free from cops,” have reportedly been trying to coerce citizens and businesses to pay a price for their “protection. ”
“We have heard, anecdotally, reports of citizens and businesses being asked to pay a fee to operate within this area,” stated Assistant Chief of Police Deanna Nollette. “This is the crime of extortion.”
Police also voiced concerns about armed guards patrolling the zone, who appear to be intimidating community members. Protesters began occupying the area on Tuesday after police abandoned their east precinct, hoping it would deescalate tensions.
CHAZ (the capitol hill autonomous zone here in seattle) is an incomprehensible contradiction whose existence seems to have been willed into being through gumption and determination alone, and the result is something beautiful, fragile, and potentially world-changing. pic.twitter.com/s9Z0zNfVqM
— sarah zedig, adult™ (@hmsnofun) June 11, 2020
Since then, activists have overtaken an area ranging six blocks downtown. They have been using the streets to feature discussions, movie screenings and live music to further the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as their mission to defund the police.
“It’s not aggressive or violent, nothing like that. We didn’t come out here for any of that. All we wanted was what was equal, what was right.” – Unnamed protester
Police have alluded to a darker side of the barricaded zone, citing reports of possible extortion by protesters and threats they’ve received suggesting their precinct will be burned down.
“We are the police of this community now,” said another protester. “We are the leaders of this community now.”
— Sarah Johnson (@sarahjohnson572) June 11, 2020
Officers have also pointed out the situation has caused distress for residents, who reportedly have to go through checkpoints upon entering and provide their identification to civilian armed security forces.
Seattle police have emphasized they’re open to dialogue with leaders of the occupation. They have said they’ll wait “for everyone’s tempers to calm” and will approach discussions “with a view toward equality.”
WATCH: Seattle PD Chief re-enters abandoned precinct within Autonomous Zone pic.twitter.com/MRL2j1OV2c
— AirBnB Warlord Poso (@JackPosobiec) June 11, 2020
In the meantime, President Trump has called on city and state leaders to put an end to the occupation. He urged them to take back their city immediately and said these “anarchists” have to be stopped now.
Radical Left Governor @JayInslee and the Mayor of Seattle are being taunted and played at a level that our great Country has never seen before. Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will. This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stopped IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 11, 2020