(TLB) Editors note: More Seattle news and updates at the bottom of this story.
In Seattle’s CHAZ, would-be revolutionaries vie to control the narrative
One week into its existence, the leaderless protest zone strives to define itself
By| Just the News
From somewhere in cyberspace, a revolutionary activist pleaded with nontraditional media to reclaim the lost story of the Seattle protest zone, where — one week into its existence -— fissures have erupted between traditionalists and revisionists.
“We are calling for citizen journalists and independent media to help take back the narrative,” wrote the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone webmaster, who lamented that Seattle’s original CHAZ has been hijacked. The webmaster, “Louis Blanqui,” told Just the News that the real story must be told.
Increasingly, though, as questions arise over who runs the enclave and where it is headed, the narrative has grown amorphous.
The CHAZ chronicle began fairly clearly on June 8, when protestors captured six blocks in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, after Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan told police to abandon their embattled post in the neighborhood’s East Precinct. The protests came in the wake of George Floyd’s death last month at the hands of Minneapolis police.
A sign marking the border of the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” in Seattle, Washington (SOPA Images / Getty Images)
Using fences and barricades, Seattle protesters blocked off an area encompassing the police station, and marked territory with a sign declaring: “You Are Now Entering Free Cap Hill.”
They issued a set of demands that included free housing, free health care, free college, and abolishing the Seattle Police Department.
Rooftop cameras on one corner live-streamed a scene that was part street festival, part open-air concert, replete with street art, free food, camping, and a community garden. In one set of images, people of varying ethnicity roamed with and without masks, mostly on foot and some via bicycle, while music played and dogs barked.
The settlers planted squash and corn, “Blanqui” told Just the News.
As the week progressed, though, the storyline changed. The halcyon rooftop livestreams notwithstanding, less idyllic images emerged from the ground level. In one video, posted on Twitter, a man rages that his car has been broken into, and his keys and cell phone stolen. In another, a confrontation turns into a fist fight.
City officials sought to hold peace talks with the protestors, but reportedly were stymied at first because no one seems to be in charge of the CHAZ.
One longtime community activist, Nikkita Oliver — who once ran for mayor, and has been spotted around the CHAZ — seemed a likely commander, but denied that she is in charge.
“I’m not the leader,” said Oliver, speaking to a reporter.
Rap artist Raz Simone arrived inside the zone, and soon was dubbed the warlord of the CHAZ. He, too, denied being in charge, but spoke about his vision for the enclave, and appeared in several videos posted to Twitter, playing either emcee or activist, depending on the situation.
Yet another purported leader, who earlier was pictured with Mayor Durkan, entered the CHAZ and spoke to a crowd.
“This is not an autonomous zone, this is a peaceful protest,” said the man, who was identified as David Lewis — and who was criticized for being too close to police.
None of the purported leaders fully took charge of the community that began last week with a wide-ranging list of demands.
“Things got kind of messed up,” said one protestor, who calls herself only Willow. “A lot of the message turned into a different message, like, I don’t know what it was or who these people really are.”
Nor will all of the protesters say who they are, claiming they don’t feel “safe” nor “comfortable” revealing their identities. Some who spoke to Just the News only used first names: Willow, or Robin. While theirs are reminiscent of commune culture, “Louis Blanqui” is named for a 19th century French socialist who advocated armed insurrection.
“I chose the name by searching ‘Paris commune leaders’ and picking the first one,” the modern “Blanqui” said. But, as vocal CHAZ denizens began distancing themselves from the “autonomous zone” label, “Blanqui” seemed not interested in armed insurrection, but in predicting defeat for the movement.
“The police collaborators and self-destructive iconoclasts attempting a renaming are winning, so I expect the message of the website to be completely abandoned by protesters as they’re overrun by opportunists,” he told Just the News.
Over the weekend, activists inside the enclave changed the name of the CHAZ to the CHOP, for Capitol Hill Occupied (or, alternately, Organized) Protest. The original storyline changed. The enclave became not the work of radical secessionists, but of protesters.
“Blanqui” sent out a call for citizen journalists to retake the narrative.
“Please come down with your interview equipment,” he wrote. “The revolution will not be televised.”
(TLB) published this article with permission of John Solomon at Just the News
Some emphasis and pictorial content added by (TLB)
Click Here to read about the staff at Just the News
Additional Seattle coverage/RT-USA News
Seattle bans police use of tear gas, pepper spray & chokeholds as anarchist crowd reigns over portion of city
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