Think the people holding hostage the six-blocks of Seattle known as CHAZ (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone) are just a ragtag bunch of activists putting on a street festival with no real agenda except a vague push for social justice?
They’ve created a website and, like everybody with a gripe these days, they’ve posted on it a 1354-word “list of demands” by The Collective Black Voices at Free Capitol Hill.
They’ve got a lot of demands, at least 35 by my count. They include:
- Eliminate 100% of the funding for the Seattle Police Department and the attached criminal justice apparatus and abolish both.
- Redirect all the former Police Department and criminal justice money to: free public housing; public education to decrease class size and increase teacher salaries; naturalization services for undocumented immigrants; general community development.
- Defund all Seattle Police employee pensions.
- Disallow the operations ICE in Seattle.
- In the period between now and the dismantlement of the police department, ban any use of armed force, including guns, batons, riot shields and chemical weapons.
- Abolish youth jails and an under-construction juvenile detention center.
- Provide reparations to victims of police brutality.
- Retry all People of color currently serving a prison sentence for violent crime by a jury of their peers
- Decriminalize all acts of protest; give amnesty to all protesters generally.
- Release any prisoner currently serving time for a marijuana-related offense and expunge the conviction.
- Give all prisoners currently serving time the full and unrestricted right to vote.
- Abolish all imprisonment.
- Empty the Seattle Police Department’s “Lost and Found” and return the items to citizens.
- De-gentrify Seattle.
- impose rent controls
- Restore city funding for arts and culture. Americans to protest.
- Provide free college to the people of Washington.
- Prohibit the Seattle Police from performing homeless sweeps.
- Require that hospitals and care facilities in Seattle employ black doctors to help care for black patients.
- Give significantly greater focus to the history of Black and Native Americans in Washington State’s education curriculum.
- Require that anti-bias training be a legal requirement for all jobs in education, medicine and the mass media.
- Remove all monuments to historical figures of the Confederacy in Seattle and the State of Washington.
They even demand that “the people of Seattle seek out and proudly support Black-owned businesses.”
A section of the website titled “Commentary from International comrades” has not attracted much reaction either, though “K. Tulin” from Leningrad says, “You must attract new people from all over America, but for this you must have an idea of the future that will appeal to most Americans. You must read the works of Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx and Lenin!”
It’s not clear whether the CHAZ participants are finding the time to do the recommended reading.
As extreme as some of the demands may appear, Charlie Warzel, an Opinion writer at large for the New York Times, argues that large scale public support for Black Lives Matter activism wasn’t evident for a long time either. “And yet, there conversations didn’t disappear off the internet when they left the front pages,” he wrote recently. “They continued, despite portrayals to discredit the movement as a violent fringe and specious claims that ‘systemic racism is a myth’ perpetuated by the media and so-called social justice warriors.”
Calls to “Defund the Police,” in particular, need to be recognized as real “calls for a complete remaining of what they see as a corrupt, broken system,” Warzel argues.
Ironically, some Republicans in Congress are arguing that budgetary burdens imposed on states because of Covid-19 and the social unrest accompanying Black Lives Matter protests justify more, not less, funding of police in states. “In the wake of everything that’s happened with George Floyd’s murder, we can’t afford not to have EMTs, we can’t afford to not have police officers on the street,” said Rep. John Katko (R-NY).
It’s hard to tell what the CHAZ site’s occupiers or the general public really think about all these demands because the principal media don’t ask. They should.