Mayor Jenny Durkan and Chief Carmen Best ordered the police to return to Capitol Hill’s East Precinct and sweep through Cal Anderson Park on 1 July 2020. Like a lot of us in the neighborhood, I woke up to the familiar sounds of a hovering helicopter. I wasn’t sure if it was a march or the big clear out. Mystery sorted as soon I went to Justin’s Capitol Hill Seattle Blog.
I walked over there at about 0930. There was police tape everywhere, and the police were blocking the usual roads and intersections near the East Precinct. I’m not sure what that means for the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP). I also don’t have many clear thoughts on the current circumstances.
CHOP was not the nightmare scenario that Fox News would have you believe. It sprang up after Durkan and the police made a terrible decision to respond violently to people marching in protest of systemic police racism and violence. After about 10 days of constant and frightening confrontations with protesters, the police abandoned the East Precinct. The confrontations seemed so easily avoidable.
The first couple of weeks were great. I would only wander through, but there was an explosion of art, speakers, teach-ins. The “organized” in CHOP may have been partly aspirational. My observations are all anecdotal, but I got the sense that things were changing. How? Hard to say, especially for someone like me following the news and wandering around the periphery. Did the protest site near the East Precinct and the Cal Anderson camp become distinct? No, that’s not NIMBY code for blaming unsheltered people for things.
Then nightly shootings started. People on social media were warning people not to walk around Cal Anderson alone at night. It did feel more dangerous, but I’m not sure the statistics would support that. I’ve lived on Capitol Hill for four years. It’s never a great idea to wander around Cal Anderson late at night alone. And every summer the shootings there pick up.
I’m angry at how Durkan and the police chose to move back in. Many of the people in Cal Anderson were unsheltered. Everything they own they carry. I saw enough crumbled tents and blankets to be confident that a lot of people lost their belongings. On a cold, wet day in Seattle.
I know that some of the businesses and residents inside CHOP were stressed. The residents didn’t get a lot of sympathy on social media. That area has a lot of expensive condos and tech wealth. But I know I wouldn’t have wanted to be there when the armed private security groups moved in. If I don’t know you or your background and experience with weapons, I don’t want you anywhere near me.
I’m not smart enough to sort it out on my own. I’ll do some reading and hear what community leaders are saying. I don’t feel any better seeing legions of riot gear wearing, baton carrying police, and I don’t want to see another round of zero meaningful changes to a law enforcement system that is broken.