by Elizabeth Turnbull
Following the early morning sweep of the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) on July 1 by the Seattle Police Department, protesters say their movement will not dissolve along with the space.
Malcolm, a prominent protester at the CHOP, told the Emerald: “CHOP is not disbanded. CHOP was not the building. CHOP was an area but most importantly, CHOP was these people. At the end of the day we’re gonna keep moving forward and we’re gonna keep marching for change and until we get some of our demands met, we’re gonna be out here everyday.”
Before the sweep, the City made it very clear to protesters that they were not willing to let go of the East Precinct, Malcolm noted, and he says the plan is to simply switch to a new location — which most likely will be City Hall.
Other protesters also asserted that the CHOP is independent of the space where it was contained.
“A lot of people think the “C-H” in “CHOP” just stood for the location of the organized protest, but that was just where it started,” said David Lewis, a fixture at the protests. “CHOP continues every day. Our chant of ‘every day’ does not end here.”
While the police have pushed out all of the protesters from the area and are currently not allowing entry back in, Lewis said that the sweep merely added to the movement’s momentum.
“If anything, all this did is this added to our resolve,” Lewis said. “Our numbers were dwindling. We recognized that having and occupying this space was genuinely exhausting. What they’ve done is they’ve blown flames on the coals [of] this movement.”
Police cleared the protest zone at roughly 5 a.m. on July 1, after Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an executive order to vacate the area, citing fatal shootings of two teenagers and other crimes in or near the zone since the police vacated the East Precinct.
While some protesters felt that the sweep was partially positive — in order to prevent more shootings from happening — many felt the way in which police swept the area was harsher than it had to be, since many individuals had been using the space as a place of residence.
“Nobody has a place to go. Nobody has a place to live,” said one protester, who goes by Dragon, in conversation with the Emerald. “You’re doing this to Blacks, you’re doing this to the homeless — that’s not fair.”
In addition to the fact that most protesters were woken up by the sweep, they were only given roughly five minutes to pack their belongings, Dragon said.
“Five minutes to pack all our gear?” Dragon said. “We have tents, we have sleeping bags, we have clothing, and they give us five minutes to disperse?”
Another man named Ricky Joe Running Bear Manciaz, who has been camping in the CHOP since the beginning of the protest, said being rushed out in that way was very demoralizing.
“It makes me feel worthless because now I don’t have nowhere to stay now,” Manciaz said. “I’m Native, so who are they to tell me how I can live on my land?”
As of 2:30 p.m. the police had made 39 arrests while dispersing protesters from the CHOP, according to Seattle Police Department’s Sergeant Truscott. A video clip obtained by the New York Times showed that a substantial number of police officers were involved in the sweep in addition to the presence of at least one armored vehicle.
Elizabeth Turnbull is a Seattle-based journalist
Featured image by Susan Fried