'CHAZ' protest zone renamed 'CHOP' as Seattle leaders promise change

SEATTLE -- The 6-9 block area of Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood currently occupied by protesters has been renamed from CHAZ - the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone - to CHOP - the Capitol Hill Organized (or Occupied) Protest.

Organizers of the occupied protest zone, which surrounds the now abandoned Seattle Police Department's East Precinct building, say they changed the name because they are not trying to be autonomous or free from local governance.

What they want, they say, is systemic change, though Black Lives Matter organizers and community outreach officers with Seattle Police say the occupiers have hijacked a movement for police reform and racial equity.

“I’m disgusted with it,” said Victoria Beach, SPD chair of the African American Community Advisory Council, at an event with black clergy members held Sunday night. “It’s no longer about George Floyd or the Black Lives Matter movement.”

The CHOP sprung up last week after police moved barricades near the East Precinct on Monday (June 8) and then abandoned the building.

It came after officers used tear gas, pepper spray and flash bangs to disperse Capitol Hill demonstrators who had been rallying for 11 days in response to the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Signs along the sidewalks proclaimed “You are entering free Capitol Hill” and “No cop co-op.” Throughout the day, speakers use microphones to discuss their demands. Artists have painted a block-long “Black Lives Matter” mural on the street. Many businesses are still open.

Police Chief Carmen Best said in a video message to her police force that it was not her decision to abandon the precinct. Mayor Jenny Durkan has agreed to the following reforms in response to the protests:

Other demands, however, like abolishing the SPD or reducing its funding by 50 percent, are not feasible, city leaders have said.

There's no timeline on when police will take back the East Precinct. Police said response times have tripled in the area, and officers have been instructed not to respond to calls in the CHOP unless it's a "mass casualty" event.