Early this morning, a phalanx of Seattle police officers, armed with long batons and semiautomatic rifles, cleared out the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), also known as the Capitol Hill Occupation Protest (CHOP). Unless Antifa militants stage an unexpected counterattack, this marks the end of the 24-day occupation of the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Seattle can now begin to reckon with the damage.
The CHAZ saga began on June 8, under the premise that capitalism, police brutality, and the “fascist regime” of Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan were upholding a social order that systemically oppressed African-Americans. Black Lives Matter and Antifa-affiliated activists hoped to create a new regime based on familiar social-justice principles of recent years: they established a social order based on a “reverse hierarchy of oppression,” implemented race-based segregation in public spaces, and maintained a “police-free zone” that they believed would protect “people of color” from the depredations of the state.
As it turns out, however, maintaining public order is a complex undertaking and can’t be replaced by academic symbolism. BLM activists might despise George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, but a regime based on the principles of Nikole Hannah-Jones, Ibram X. Kendi, and Robin DiAngelo doesn’t work too well. As CHAZ’s experience demonstrates, when left-wing radicals shift from protest to governance, things fall apart.
Ultimately, the problem of violence—and a dangerously naive understanding of policing—doomed the CHAZ. Over its 24-day history, the autonomous zone saw two gun homicides and four additional shooting victims. All the identified victims were black men—precisely the demographic for whom the CHAZ had claimed to offer protection. In the absence of a legitimate police force, armed criminal gangs and untrained anarchist paramilitaries filled the void.
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