An Ex-Seattleite Tours the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone

Simon Greenwood
8 min readJul 1, 2020
Image by “@submedia” on Twitter

I was born and raised in Seattle. Last week I returned to the city that was my home for thirty years to visit my brother, still a true-blue Seattlite. While I was there I couldn’t resist touring the hotspot that’s bemused journalists across the nation. I had to go to the CHAZ (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone) and see this new pseudo-nation for myself.

The Birth of a Zone

The CHAZ is the center of protests for Seattle’s #BlackLivesMatter movement, and a whole lot more. Sort of. The more extreme CHAZes declared it an autonomous zone, almost like a separate country-within-a-country. A rapper named Raz Simone then declared himself in charge of security and his heavily armed posse began patrolling. I heard rumors that he was arming any adult who showed up and wanted to join, but couldn’t verify this. They’ve already been accused, with video evidence, of abusing their powers.

It’s not clear that other residents of, and visitors to, CHAZ wanted this. They had more realistic goals. The secessionist extremists apparently want to create a utopia free of racism, police brutality, and GMOs. I just made up that last one, though it’s not far off some of the sillier demands of CHAZes. Example: a sign asking for vegan food donations, posted after the homeless people invited to CHAZ stole all the food.

When there was a shooting, my brother dismissed it as the inevitable result of having thousands of people together in a park. I didn’t buy that: every day has rallies, concerts and events without violence. It reminds me of the Rolling Stones Altamont Speedway concert back in ‘69- the Stones were so sure that “every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints,” they hired Hell’s Angels as security guards rather than using the police. Predictably, four people died, including one who was stabbed to death by the Angels themselves. The CHAZ has had four shootings with two fatalities so far.

That’s the crux of the issue. It’s good to hold cops to higher standards than regular civilians, but it shouldn’t be infinitely higher. If the counter-culture’s security forces, like those in CHAZ or at the Altamont Speedway, are twice as likely to kill people as cops are, are they still better? What if they’re ten times as likely? Where do you draw the…