Explained: What is the CHAZ?

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Amidst nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in the hands of police custody, Seattle protesters have secured an area called the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or C.H.A.Z. The zone, which comprises a 6 block area within the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, was overtaken by protestors, some of whom now claim the area to no longer be a part of the United States, with signage proclaiming “You are leaving the U.S.” and “Now entering the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.” Some have reported that businesses within C.H.A.Z. have been required to pay protesters in order to remain open and unharmed during their occupation, while others have pointed to businesses’ open cooperation with said protestors in countering such statements. The zone has been blocked off with crude barricades and fencing, which is also patrolled by armed guards. The zone also overtook a precinct of the Seattle Police Department, where residents of C.H.A.Z. have renamed it to the “Seattle People Department”.

The CHAZ charter, which organized the takeover, has recently released a public list of demands necessary for them to return control of the zone back to state authorities. The list includes a promise to abolish the Seattle Police Department and court system, reparations for victims of police brutality, and releasing prisoners who only resisted arrest. As of June 13th, no state or local actions have been taken to meet these demands.

Within a couple days of the creation of C.H.A.Z., supplies began to run scarce. C.H.A.Z. organizers took to Twitter to ask for everyday citizens to donate food, including vegan alternatives, to the autonomous zone as reports emerged that the surrounding homeless have begun to steal C.H.A.Z. supplies.

As of June 13th, C.H.A.Z. is still currently under protester control and no statements have been made by the SPD about possible police action to reclaim the territory. President Trump threatened military action in response to the protester occupation, stating the necessity to “take back” Seattle. Governor Inslee of Washington State combatted his threats, stating that no military action will be tolerated from the White House.

On June 11th, Seattle Police Chief, Carmen Best, explained to reporters that emergency calls in the area have tripled since protester occupation, however the police are not able to respond on the scene. She stated: “These are responses to emergency calls — rapes, robberies, and all sorts of violent acts that have been occurring in the area that we’re not able to get to.”