Weekend At CHAZ: A Commune Block Party Punctuated With Brief Power Struggles, Infighting
( Daily Caller )
CAPITAL HILL AUTONOMOUS ZONE (CHAZ) — The residential area in Seattle taken over by protesters and dubbed the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ) may have block party vibes, but it is punctuated with power struggles and infighting.
The Daily Caller had reporters on the ground in CHAZ, the roughly six-block neighborhood that has been deemed a cop-free zone by activists. The area includes Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct, which was abandoned before a few cops returned and were “assessing the building” Thursday.
Inside the commune, which is manned by volunteers located at various checkpoints, music plays and beers flow. At first glance, the scene is comparable to a music festival or a big block party, with free food, community discussions and games like dodgeball.
Various tents have been set up to provide help and services to those within the barriers. A “no cop co-op” offers free food, feminine hygiene products, protective equipment and more. A restaurant’s outdoor seating area has been turned into a medical center and other tents offer mental health help.
Thursday evening saw occupants pitch roughly 50 to 60 tents in Cal Anderson Park, which is an area now within CHAZ. A makeshift bonfire was lit Friday evening and many people were hanging out at the park as they listened to music and drank with friends.
Beneath the block party vibe, though, unrest is brewing inside CHAZ. The seemingly no-rules, no leader vibe has resulted in squabbles and fights within the new community. These fights range from quiet disagreements about people who wish to seize power to outright physical altercations on the streets of CHAZ.
One man guarding an entry point into CHAZ said many people don’t agree with Raz Simone, who has been dubbed the “warlord” of the area by some. Simone has pushed back on this “warlord” narrative, tweeting that he is “not a Terrorist Warlord” and that “The world has NEVER been ready for a strong black man.”
The entry point volunteer explained how disagreements with Simone’s tactics and ideas is part of larger internal struggle brewing as the occupants attempt to figure out how to effectively live a life with no clear laws and no clear leader.
The effects of this struggle played out throughout Friday evening and early into Saturday morning, as squabbles broke out during a dodgeball game and another disagreement ensued over whose turn it was to have microphone access.
As the night wore on, the arguments got more pitched. A lengthy, tense confrontation broke out as occupants clashed over whether to take down the wooden “CHAZ” sign that is currently mounted on a pole in front of the East Precinct. Demonstrators eventually decided that the sign would remain up, and one man chastised the crowd for arguing over a sign.
Subsequent fights ended with demonstrators surrounding and backing a man out of the area who caused unrest within CHAZ. One woman within the commune demanded people stop videotaping fights. She said that the footage could end up on the internet and would make CHAZ look bad.
The commune is also, at times, manned by armed volunteers. There is no law prohibiting open carry in Washington state, and one young man fitted with a Desert Eagle pistol patrolled early Saturday morning. The man said he had been assaulted with a vehicle and was carrying the weapon for protection.
The Desert Eagle is the largest caliber semi automatic handgun on the market.
It remains to be seen how long CHAZ will be allowed to occupy the streets of Seattle. Outside of the commune, a separate battle wages on how best to deal with the newly formed area, with President Donald Trump referring to the occupants as “Domestic Terrorists” and vowing to “take back” the city if Democratic leaders within Washington state do not act.
The Seattle Police Department confirmed Friday that it does have plans to retake its East Precinct building.