Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Seattle Update

Two friends from other parts of the country asked me today what is actually going on in Seattle right now. The following is an e-mail that I wrote to them, with my understanding of what is going on, as of June 16, 2020:

There's a lot going on right now, both good and bad. 

There were mostly peaceful marches for multiple days in a row. Violence did break out at times, and the blame is on both sides. Some of it was the police provoking the protesters. At times, protesters got violent. Police used tear gas, pepper spray (at times taking off people's COVID masks and spraying it directly in their face), flash bangs, and other weapons. Anarchists and white supremacists and various other groups also got in on the insanity. HOWEVER, the violence was the exception. Most of the time, the protests were peaceful. 

A group of protesters set up a part of downtown that they named the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ). It has been going several days now. The police voluntarily (with encouragement from the mayor) closed their precinct office there. I believe that closure is temporary, but not sure. Initially, CHAZ was blocked off, but some of the blockades have been moved to allow access for businesses and people who live there. Some media falsely reported that it is a haven for terrorists and anarchists. Fox News photoshopped an armed man supposedly standing guard, but removed those pictures when they were called on it. They also posted a picture of a fire in the Minneapolis protests, falsely claiming it was in CHAZ. It is actually closer to a street fair and has been mostly peaceful.

* Protesters have made a large "Black Lives Matter" mural on the street, with a different artist decorating each letter
* There is also other art and graffiti there, mostly remembering the black people who have been killed by police and urging people to "say their names"
* Booths have been set up with free food and hand sanitizer and other items
* Some businesses have actually been able to operate their full hours because they are protected. (At the height of the marches, and also due to coronavirus, they had very limited hours for a while there.)
* The bad part is that 911 has been much less responsive in that area

Rumors were going around, partly due to the word "autonomous" in its name, that CHAZ had seceded from the nation and was selling itself as an anarchist utopia. To clear up confusion, they changed the name the other day to Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP). 

Their aim is to work with police and others to make improvements to the way black lives are treated by the police. I've heard conflicting reports on how far they intend to go on "defunding" the police, but it is generally not a complete elimination like it sounds. They want to take some responsibilities away from the police because they feel we are asking too much of them. For example, the police are expected to do the job of social workers, medical personnel, and more. The police aren't equipped to do all that.  They would like that revamped so that actual social workers and others who are better equipped to help with those specific tasks can do them more effectively. They are also looking to change the way police respond to crises, depending more on de-escalation techniques rather than shooting first or using tear gas (which is actually illegal to use in war, so they understandably don't appreciate it used to quell protests).

There's a lot more to it, but that's the gist, and my understanding. 

I appreciate the prayers and concerns. Seattle needs prayer. The mayor (Jenny Durkan) and governor (Jay Inslee) are trying to figure out how to handle this, as CHOP is technically not permitted, but they also want to listen to the protesters' legitimate concerns. 

I hope that helps! 

Steven

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