There are examples of where occupying a piece of land has resulted in success. It involves taking control of real property and that property is not critical to the needs of another community. It literally moves a protesting groups’ objective from being against a number of social and political existing conditions to wanting a real physical object in order to better mobilize a community to change those conditions. It moves from controlling an open public space, which may have little or no connection to directly addressing their grievances, to controlling a particular building to help them pursue those grievances. By making that change, leadership and an organization are required to focus on a finite, measurable, and achievable goal.
Seattle Autonomous Zone
What is unthinkable, or was at the beginning of the month, is the power of the Black Lives Matter movement in the streets. The emergence of the autonomous zone is a pinnacle of that power, a significant victory. It demonstrates the ability of popular power to win the impossible from structures of white supremacy – the state and the propertied interests they represent. That victory, and the subsequent diminution of state violence, is a major step forward for community self-control and autonomy. It shows that ending anti-Black violence is the first and most basic step to honoring Black life. But it is just the beginning. Honoring Black life means constructing a society where Black autonomy and Black power are the cornerstones of community and one where Black freedom is the foundation for broader, collective liberation. The advent of the movement’s autonomous zone was a step in that direction. Taking the city’s east police precinct demonstrates not only that our movements can win, but we can win previously unimaginable victories for Black lives.
Seattle, WA - The Seattle Police Department (SPD) moved into the "Capitol Hill Organized Protest" (CHOP) zone and returned to the department's East Precinct early Wednesday morning after abandoning the building three weeks ago. Officers arrested at least 31 people by 9:25 a.m. for failure to disperse, obstruction, resisting arrest, and assault. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued a 48-hour executive order for protesters to vacate the area due to the ongoing violence and public safety issues in the area of the East Precinct and Cal Anderson Park. Mayor Durkan's order declared the gathering as an “unlawful assembly” that required immediate action.
Every night around 7 pm, demonstrators now march from the Capitol Hill Organized Protest to the Seattle Police Department's West Precinct. The downhill rally culminates with a handful of speakers who speak out against police brutality. Tonight, the rally ended with an unexpected detour—onto I-5. Speakers spoke on the steps of the West Precinct on Virginia Street for around 30 minutes. There were no police in sight, only a barricade set up in anticipation of the rally. Demonstrators spoke on a bullhorn about SPD's use of tear gas, calling it a war crime and demanding justice. Organizer David Lewis talked about being "pepper-sprayed and gassed for two weeks for this change with you." "It is your voice, it is your feat, it is your bodies that has earned us an audience with the mayor on a weekly basis," he continued. "A lot of the voices here are demanding for change and we will have it."
Since a lot of the narratives swirling around about Seattle right now are less-than-insightful, I’m sharing a few points to help contextualize the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in the bigger picture of the dizzying terrain that is Seattle history. Meanwhile, in the interest of amplifying the work being done by the collective Black voices on the ground, I would like to direct your attention to this document, which explains what is being asked for in the aftermath of what they’re calling the “George Floyd Rebellion.” Also, Seattle author Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race is an important resource that just climbed to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Finally, while you’re buying Seattle books, check out Black Imagination: Black Voices on Black Futures, curated by local artist Natasha Marin.