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11 Jun, 2020 03:49

Warlords and... soy shortages? For Antifa anarchists in Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, revolution ain’t easy

Warlords and... soy shortages? For Antifa anarchists in Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, revolution ain’t easy

Activists who established a commune around an abandoned police precinct in Seattle are finding out the hard way it’s not easy to run a revolution, dealing with food supply issues, internal squabbling and even a wannabe strongman.

After Seattle PD vacated the East Precinct in the Capitol Hill neighborhood on Sunday, activists moved in and set up an “autonomous zone” spanning several city blocks, putting up barricades and “persuading” local residents and businesses to de facto separate from the city. 

Their creation has been dubbed the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone,” or CHAZ.

“Right now at CHAZ there is food, security, bathrooms, art, love, public discourse, action, education, film viewing, and much needed community building,” said one activist. The film in question was Ava DuVernay’s documentary ‘13th,’ about the connection between slavery and prisons in the US.

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DuVernay reacted by wishing “blessings and bravery to all the good people at #CHAZ tonight.”

Not satisfied with enlarging their zone, the activists took over the Seattle City Hall on Tuesday, accompanied by councilwoman Kshama Sawant, a socialist, and demanded the resignation of Mayor Jenny Durkan, a Democrat.

They also released a long list of demands, some apparently reasonable – the release of everyone serving time for marijuana offenses, for example – and others patently absurd, such as the abolition of police, courts and immigration enforcement. 

There is something ironic, of course, about their first action being to build a “wall” to protect their territory...

The activists claim to represent “collective black voices” as expressed at the June 8 protest, before the CHAZ was set up. A TikTok explainer going viral calls them Antifa. Proposals for the CHAZ flag – featuring pink umbrellas and the black stenciled fist so familiar from “color revolutions” around the world – also point in that direction.

Some of their social media posts from the preceding protest suggest typical Seattle hipsters – “mental health tent” to help people with “deescalating a panic attack” or “processing the violence” anyone?

One particular activist – who has since made her tweets private – allegedly lamented that “homeless people… took away all the food” and appealed to sympathizers to bring “vegan meat substitutes, fruits, oats, soy” to replenish the CHAZ pantry. Her plea was screenshotted for posterity.

Being an anarchist commune apparently also means that smoking is regulated as strictly as in “regime-occupied” Seattle, if photos from the CHAZ taken by one local journalist are anything to go by.

As for what happens in the CHAZ without police, it seems – judging from videos posted on social media and Reddit threads at least – that a certain Seattle native by the name of Raz Simone and his “crew” have made themselves arbiters of order. Apparently, they don’t seem to believe in nonviolence or freedom of artistic expression, either.

There are easily recognizable shades of 2011’s Occupy Wall Street rebellion, or the 1999 Battle of Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization, back when anarchists still hated globalism. There are also echoes of every revolutionary movement ever, which sounds great on paper or in the excited imagination of its organizers, but quickly slams into the wall of human nature, power and logistics once put into practice.

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One major thing the “Zoners” have managed to accomplish so far is to de-legitimize the current city and even state government, both run by Democrats, which have done absolutely nothing to reassert their authority over the occupied area. Perhaps Mayor Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best – as well as Governor Jay Inslee down in Olympia – are hoping that CHAZ will run out of steam on its own, after the food, entertainment and revolutionary zeal run out.

They may also intend to use the Zoners as a cover to enact some of their demands that have already been on the Democratic Party’s agenda, but were previously considered impractical or too extreme. The nationwide protests and riots of the past week were quickly co-opted into the ongoing political and culture war, after all.

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