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Free Food, Free Speech and Free of Police: Inside Seattle's 'Autonomous Zone'


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Free Food, Free Speech and Free of Police: Inside Seattle's 'Autonomous Zone'

On the streets next to a police station in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, protesters and officers spent a week locked in a nightly cycle of standoffs, at times ending with clouds of tear gas.

But facing a growing backlash over its dispersal tactics in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, the Seattle Police Department this week offered a concession: Officers would abandon their building, board up the windows and let the protesters have free rein outside.

In a neighborhood that is the heart of the city’s art and culture — threatened these days as rising tech wealth brings in gentrification — protesters seized the moment. They reversed the barricades to shield the liberated streets and laid claim to several city blocks, now known as the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.”

“This space is now property of the Seattle people,” read a banner on the front entrance of the now-empty police station. The entire area was now a homeland for racial justice — and, depending on the protester one talked to, perhaps something more.

What has emerged is an experiment in life without the police — part street festival, part commune. Hundreds have gathered to hear speeches, poetry and music. On Tuesday night, dozens of people sat in the middle of an intersection to watch “13th,” the Ava DuVernay film about the criminal justice system’s effect on African Americans. On Wednesday, children made chalk drawings in the street.

One block had a designated smoking area. Another had a medic station. At the “No Cop Co-op,” people could pick up a free LaCroix sparkling water or a snack. No currency was accepted, but across the street, in a nod to capitalism, a bustling stand was selling $6 hot dogs. It was dealing in U.S. dollars.

On Wednesday night, President Donald Trump tried to portray the scenes in the city as something more sinister. He called for government leaders to crack down on the protesters, declaring on Twitter that “Domestic Terrorists have taken over Seattle.”

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They conveniently left out that there are armed protesters with guns on the perimeter to keep out those that they don't like, so whatever happened to gun control in Seattle? Now that they have kicked out the police, they have to rely on guns to protect themselves.

 

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This is what communists do, they seize private property and declare it public space, just like in Dr. Zhivago. Throw out the cops and organized government, and declare martial law which they have done.

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