Reports from inside the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone near downtown Seattle belie the claim of Mayor Jenny Durkan that the seizure of sovereignty of the police station and six surrounding blocks of city is merely "a peaceful expression of our community's collective grief and their desire to build a better world."
Independent reporter Andy Ngo, who has documented violent protests by Antifa and other movements in recent years, set the scene in an interview Thursday with Fox News' Martha MacCallum.
"It's hard for me to overstate the anarchy that's on the streets in a neighborhood in the largest city in the Pacific Northwest," he said.
"You have here a group of several hundred people who have laid siege to a territory and have claimed it as a separate political entity from the United States."
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Ngo pointed out that behind the images of "dancing and having a good time" is a boarded up police precinct, border checkpoints and "in the absence of power," those "who will take advantage of the situation to elevate themselves."
Among them are a 30-year-old rapper, Solomon "Raz" Simone, who, claiming to be the zone's enforcer, carries a high-powered rifle — said to be an AK-47 — and makes announcements through a megaphone.
Simone is seen on video allegedly assaulting a zone resident over graffiti.
"We are the police of this community now," someone is heard telling the alleged vandal as Simone tries to talk to him. "We are the leaders of this community now."
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'No longer protests'
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said Thursday her officers had heard of "armed people" in the zone "demanding payment from business owners in exchange for protection."
After visiting the zone, Best told reporters her department's calls for service there had more than tripled. But zone "authorities" won't allow her officers to respond.
"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," she said.
A delivery man named Jesse said he was blocked from carrying out his job.
"This is no longer protests and has become dometic terrorism. Please open our streets!" he wrote on Twitter.
This is CHAZ! Capitol hill autonomous zone. I have deliveries and can’t even get my truck through the city streets! This is no longer protests and has become dometic terrorism. Please open our streets! @SeattlePD @realDonaldTrump @FoxNews @MayorJenny @GovInslee pic.twitter.com/05Pb9NifBD
— Jesse (@yep_ima_dick) June 12, 2020
'Summer of love'
Seattle's mayor, Durkan, reacted to President Trump's labeling of the CHAZ protesters as "domestic terrorists."
"It's simply not true. Lawfully gathering and expressing first amendment rights, demanding we do better as a society, and providing true equity for communities of color is not terrorism. It’s patriotism," she said on Twitter.
In another tweet she said it's clear Trump "doesn’t understand what’s happening on five square blocks of our City."
Durkan said in an interview Thursday night with CNN's Chris Cuomo on “Cuomo Primetime" that the zone is "more like a block party atmosphere."
"We could have the summer of love," she said.
The mayor insisted it's "not an armed takeover" or a "military junta."
"We will make sure that we can restore this," she said.
Durkan argued that the neighborhood is known for its "block parties."
"So, I think the president, number one, there is no threat right now to the public. And we’re looking, we’re taking that very seriously," she told Cuomo.
It would be illegal for Trump to carry out his threat of taking back the zone if she refused to act, the mayor contended.
"We’re meeting with businesses and residents," she said. "But what the president threatened is illegal and unconstitutional, and the fact that he can think he can just tweet that and not have ramifications is just wrong.”
One protester in the zone seemed to agree, literally, with Durkan that CHAZ is just a big party. But that doesn't make him happy, he told a crowd via megaphone.
"You're not taking this protest seriously," he said.
Hear his rebuke:
This fellow suggests that things aren't being taken seriously because the CHAZ has been more of a party than a functional protest. He complains that Washington has still made no meaningful changes to its Police. pic.twitter.com/8KXYXdTPGk
— Robert Evans (The Only Robert Evans) (@IwriteOK) June 11, 2020