By Jason Mattera
Seattle’s Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) “autonomous” area was established in early June after protestors, vandals, looters, and loiterers-with-intent clashed with police officers in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Attempting to appease the unruly mob, Seattle’s mayor ordered cops to abandon the East Precinct. The mob interpreted the mayor’s directive as a sign of weakness – quickly walling off six city blocks using street barricades and other makeshift blockades. Outsiders were warned that by entering CHOP, they were now leaving the United States.
The “No Cop Co-Op,” as it was billed, was in full operation.
I live in Seattle near this social justice experiment, and the jokes, as we say, were writing themselves. For starters, the territory where you went when you were “leaving the United States” couldn’t figure out what to call itself. CHOP originally went by the name of CHAZ, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. But days later – for no known reason (maybe it happened autonomously) – CHAZ was renamed CHOP, the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone. And even that acronym was uncertain. There was a tedious internal debate on whether the “O” stood for “Occupied” or “Organized.”
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As it turns out, the CHOP occupants energy would’ve better been spent protecting their food stash.
A self-described “lesbian anarchist” who touted abolishing both “capitalism” and “whiteness” on her Twitter profile bemoaned that ungrateful vagrants welcomed into the encampment were pilfering the meal supply: “The homeless people we invited took away all the food at the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. We need more food to keep the area operational.” Not just any food can nourish the revolution, however. “Please if possible bring vegan meat substitutes, fruits, oats, soy products, etc. – anything to help us eat,” she pleaded on social media.
In an instant mimicry of the former Soviet Union’s long breadlines and empty store shelves, Seattle’s nascent utopia almost starved within the first week.
Then, there was the meteoric rise of Raz Simone. At one point, this hip-hop artist was dubbed the “warlord” of CHOP. How did he suddenly rise to this lofty position?
The guns. Probably the guns.
Simone was seen on camera patrolling the area with a semi-automatic long rifle and another firearm secured to his leg. What’s more, he was filmed handing out an “assault rifle” to an underage kid like they were playing a game of laser tag.
“Someone over the age of 18 know how to use a gun?” Simone inquired, as he popped open the trunk of a Tesla. “Eighteen,” a dude responded, raising his hand, and Simone gave him the hardware. In Washington State, a person must be 21 years old to own a semi-automatic rifle, and he must pass both a state and federal background check before acquiring one by purchase or gift. Raz Simone committed multiple firearm felonies on video.
Small-dollar reparations were also a theme in this progressive paradise. “White people, I see you. I see every one of you, and I remember your faces. You find that African-American person, and you give them $10,” declared a bandana-wearing speaker at one gathering. Venmo was suggested as an option for those not walking around with cash.
Or how about the racial hierarchy of the P-Patch community garden? Attempts were made at the local park to grow fruits and vegetables, but participation was restricted, as the all-caps sign indicated: “THIS GARDEN IS FOR BLACK AND INDIGENOUS FOLKS AND THEIR PLANT ALLIES.” What are “plant allies”? How do interested parties become “plant allies”? CHOP organizers didn’t say, even though obtaining one’s ration of tomatoes and kale would, one supposes, depend on the answers to those questions.
‘All I Know Is My Son Got Killed Up There’
Predictably, the establishment media decided to romanticize CHOP.
The New York Times described this hostile takeover of public and private property as “an experiment in life without the police – part street festival, part commune. Hundreds have gathered to hear speeches, poetry, and music.” The Seattle Times focused on the delightful odors permeating the area: “The streets smelled like the Fourth of July, as people seared hot dogs on curbside grills.” And the paper touted all the “free” stuff within CHOP: “Free snacks at the No-Cop Co-Op. Free gas masks from some guy’s sedan. Free speech at the speaker’s circle, where anyone could say their piece. A free documentary movie – Ava DuVernay’s ’13th’ – showing after dark.”
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s handling of this three-week absurdity was impressively incompetent. Armed radicals commandeered a slice of her city by force, with residents and business owners fearing for their own safety. Yet Durkan suggested that CHOP was akin to a “block party” and could ultimately be known as the “summer of love.”
Then bullets started flying and bodies began dropping. And with those lives lost, I lost my appetite for ridiculing CHOP.
Instead, I became angry.
Seattle’s political class tolerated and even encouraged this JV-level insurrection. The murders were avoidable if city officials had done their basic job: maintain civil order.
CHOP should never have been allowed to gain traction. Not even a month into this “block party,” at least four people were shot near or inside the perimeter – two fatally. The slain individuals were both black males. Neither of them will live to see their 21st birthday.
The details surrounding the shootings are murky because responding police officers weren’t allowed on the scene and emergency personnel were prevented from entering the zone to attend to the victims. The “woke” militia wouldn’t allow it. The victims instead were transported to a local ER by self-appointed CHOP medics. Investigators said that none of the potential witnesses have been cooperative.
Horace Lorenzo Anderson is the father of the 19-year-old gunned down on June 20. He doesn’t understand why his son was brutally killed: “To this day, I really don’t know nothing. I’m still here sitting. I haven’t heard nothing from nobody. Somebody needs to come to my house and knock on my door and tell me something. I don’t know nothing. All I know is my son got killed up there.” Anderson said: “I haven’t been able to sleep. I wake up in the middle of the night. I go look for him. He ain’t there.”
For all the happy talk about CHOP’s peaceful demonstrations and egalitarian aims, this trial run of life without the police was a lawless, brutish nightmare.
In fact, the Capitol Hill neighborhood where CHOP was stationed experienced a mind-boggling 525% increase in reported crimes from this time last year – crimes that included robberies, assaults, and rape. Mayor Jenny Durkan finally gave up on the “summer of love,” and ordered the Seattle Police Department to re-enter the “cop-free” zone, dismantle CHOP, disperse its occupants, and take back the vacated precinct building.
What Now for Seattle and Other American Cities?
A proper postmortem is needed to expose the main players behind CHOP – if only to help other elected leaders identify potential threats to their municipalities. Who was behind CHOP? What did they want? And do they fade away if President Donald Trump loses re-election or is the problem deeper than party politics?
Who are the people behind CHOP?
“CHOP was occupied by a cross section of area activists plus your normal fix of homeless people who already lived in the area,” Seattle radio host Jason Rantz told American Consequences. “Antifa members, including those with the Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club, were a common fixture,” he added.
By now, most people are probably familiar with the black-clad, pipe-wielding Antifa militants whom Trump accurately branded a “terrorist organization.” But people may not be familiar with the John Brown Gun Club. This extremist group is the armed security wing of Antifa. “We believe in active resistance to the corrosive and destructive social effects of white supremacy, sexism, bigotry, and economic exploitation,” the club boasts on their website. Last year, a former member tried to blow up an ICE facility outside of Seattle before he was permanently neutralized by authorities.
Beyond Antifa members playing pretend soldier, CHOP was flooded with restless white students – likely going stir-crazy because of Washington State’s onerous coronavirus lockdown. Seattle business owner and former city council candidate Ari Hoffman joked during our interview that, “If the [politicians] wanted to solve [CHOP] all they had to do was send people back to work and school, and that would have decreased [CHOP’s] numbers.” It’s still unclear, though, how many CHOP “residents” held full-time jobs. Jason Rantz noted that some folks were certainly paid professional activists, while others may have linked up with protests after work. He highlighted one agitator who was arrested for assaulting a police officer. The guy had listed on his Facebook page that he worked at Google’s cafeteria.
What do these activists want?
CHOP consisted of various Black Lives Matter affiliates and socialist organizations, like the Socialist Alternative. The socialism angle is an important one to explore. When the phalanx of CHOP accomplices released a catalog of demands, it read like a Marxist wish list.
- The Seattle Police Department and attached court system are beyond reform. We do not request reform, we demand abolition… This means 100% of funding, including existing pensions for Seattle Police.
- We demand that prisoners currently serving time be given the full and unrestricted right to vote…
- We demand the de-gentrification of Seattle, starting with rent control.
- We demand the restoration of city funding for arts and culture to re-establish the once-rich local cultural identity of Seattle.
- We demand free college for the people of the state of Washington…
There were 25 additional demands, each more preposterous than the last, but all intending to deconstruct traditional Western mores and replace them with a progressive vision for society.
Do movements like CHOP fade away if President Trump is ousted in November?
My bet: No way.
CHOP is emblematic of a broader clash of worldviews in this country. We’re not simply dealing with dueling political parties or a case of police misconduct in Minneapolis. We’re dealing with irreconcilable ideologies.
Kshama Sawant is a card-carrying socialist and city council member representing the district where CHOP was located. She’s gained notoriety nationally for attempting to impose a “head tax” on Amazon for every employee the company hires. After CHOP’s last shooting, which killed a 16-year-old Black teenager, council member Sawant blamed the episode on “capitalism’s brutality and endemic violence.” She added that “capitalism is a police state” and urged her followers to “dismantle capitalism to win a violence-free society.”
It’s tempting to dismiss Sawant as a crank, but that would be a mistake. Just think, six months ago, it would have been inconceivable for major metropolitan areas to flirt with a proposal as nuts as defunding or abolishing their police departments. And yet, that’s where we’re at today.