SEATTLE – Protestors said they believe they are not to blame for the violence that has unfolded at the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone, known as CHOP. Many of them said they are not leaving the occupation until their demands for reform are met by city leaders.
Protestors have been positioned outside of the Seattle Police Department’s East precinct for weeks. People who live and work in the Capitol Hill community said enough is enough with CHOP, after another shooting left one person dead and one person critically injured.
As the calls for an end to CHOP increase, local activist, Andre Taylor said he had to agree.
“I’m sorry, but this needs to come to an end. Period. This needs to come to an end. That’s my position! End this!” shouted Taylor. “This is something extremely serious and violence is being drawn to that area.”
Taylor is the founder Not This Time, an organization focused on reducing fatal police encounters and rebuilding healthy communities.
Taylor said he does not want to see another life lost at CHOP. He noted he supports the movement against racism and police brutality, but believes recent deadly shootings have caused CHOP to take a dark turn.
“Something so wonderful and beautiful that these youngsters created has turned so tragic,” said Taylor. “I said some people are going to be hurt and that’s what’s happening there. Whether they are from CHOP, or coming into CHOP, it is drawing a certain type of violence there and it needs to be shut down. Period!”
While many people who live and work in Capitol Hill are calling for the protest zone to end, a few others in the community said it needs to stay.
“I don’t think it should go if it hasn’t achieved its goal,” said one man who works in the area. “I think that it’s very important to remember that the law is always there. Whatever you do, it has to be according to the law. Or else there is no point doing it.”
Black Collective Voice is a group that formed in the early stages of CHOP. Their mission is to promote the safety of Black people and call for reform of the Seattle Police Department.
Members said the root of the recent violence in and around the protest zone existed long before the area was taken over.
“We inherited the drug problems there, we inherited the violence around drugs that exist there. We inherited the homeless population that Seattle has failed to provide services for. And its disingenuous for the City of Seattle or the SPD or even the residents of Capitol Hill to blame us for those preexisting problems,” said Tarika Powell, a member of Black Collective Voice.
Powell said the existing problems perpetuate the violence and racism they’re standing against now.
“Black people protesting for their rights to live, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has always been met with violence in this country,” said Powell. “The people who are trying to prevent Black people from being killed are blamed for it, although we are the victims of the violence. We are the victims of the violence that created CHOP and we are the victims of the violence around CHOP as it exists.”
Powell said Black Collective Voice is continuing efforts towards change and holding city leaders accountable.
“The question is when do we address the system that creates the lack of safety? When do we address the system that creates the violence? When do we look at demands that they are asking for and require a real conversation around those demands Because they say they’re not leaving until the demands will be met,” said Powell.