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Seattle Moves to Dismantle Police Free Protest Zone After Shootings

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  • After two shootings over the weekend in the Capitol Hill Organized/Occupied Protest (CHOP), Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said the city would begin reclaiming and sending police back to the six-block area that has been occupied since June 8.
  • CHOP was first established after police abandoned a precinct in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, making way for protesters to take over the area.
  • Since then, organizers have set up a free food coop, a community garden, and medic stations, among other resources, in the area which has remained almost entirely police-free.
  • While the protests have largely been peaceful, violence has escalated in recent days, prompting Durkan to call for the area to be dismantled because it’s creating difficult circumstances for local businesses and residents.

Shootings in CHOP

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Monday that the city would begin the process of reclaiming the Capitol Hill Organized/Occupied Protest (CHOP) zone and sending police back in after two shootings took place in the area over the weekend.

CHOP, also known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), is a 24/7 protest that has occupied roughly six blocks around a currently abandoned police precinct in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle since June 8.

The first shooting was on Saturday morning and resulted in the death and killing of Horace Lorenzo Anderson, a 19-year-old Black man who had just graduated high school, according to the Seattle Times

Anderson was transported to a hospital before being pronounced dead. Another 33-year-old man was also shot and taken to a nearby hospital.

According to reports, the victims were cared for by medics in the camp, but fire department medics did not come. Fire Department officials said they were following procedure which required them to wait for the police to secure the area first. Seattle Police Department (SPD) officials said officers tried to go into the zone, they were blocked by protesters who said the victim had already been moved.

The second incident took place on Sunday when a 17-year-old boy was shot in CHOP. He was treated at a nearby hospital and released, according to a hospital spokesperson. No suspects have been identified in either shooting.

Durkan addressed the shootings in a press conference on Monday. In it, she said that the city had started community-led efforts to have protesters leave voluntarily, as well as efforts to move folks experiencing homeless to services as needed.

“The cumulative impacts of the gatherings and protests and the nighttime atmosphere and violence has lead to increasingly difficult circumstances for our businesses and residents,” she said. 

“It’s time for people to go home. It is time for us to restore Cal Anderson [Park] and Capitol Hill so it can be a vibrant part of the community,” she continued. “We can still accommodate people who want to protest peacefully, come there and gather. But the impacts on the businesses and residents and community are now too much.”

While Durkan did not specify exactly how or when this would happen, she did say the city was working with community leaders and Black-led organizations. Durkan also did not confirm when police would return to the precinct, but said officers will do so “peacefully and in the near future.” 

Despite the uncertainty, it is likely that city and police officials will want to move quickly. On Tuesday morning, SPD reported that they responded to a third shooting near CHOP— though not in CHOP— and that one man was injured.

During Monday’s press conference, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best also claimed that, in addition to the shootings, there have been reports of rape, assault, burglary, arson, and property destruction in or around the area.

CHOP Background

Despite these recent incidents, the events inside CHOP have been largely peaceful by most accounts, contrary to right-wing narratives dominating the discussion.

CHOP first came to be after nine days of massive protests rocked Seattle following the killing of George Floyd. Much protesting had been happening in Capitol Hill, and specifically near the SPD’s East Precinct, where police set up barricades and repeatedly clashed with protesters using tear gas, flashbangs, and pepper spray.

SPD has claimed that their use of force was a response to protesters throwing bottles, rocks, and other projectiles at them, but numerous protesters and local politicians have said that the use of force was not proportionate. The Office of Police Accountability is now investigating over 12,000 complaints about police actions during the protests.

Then, on June 8, Chief Best announced that barricades would be removed from the precinct and that the department’s footprint in the area would be reduced. Police boarded up the building and left, basically leaving the protesters to demonstrate freely.

The protesters, with the help of city officials, set up barricades, blocking off traffic from the area, and declared it an autonomous zone free from police. They placed signs on some of the barriers that said “You Are Entering Free Capitol Hill,” and “You are now leaving the USA.”

Very quickly, CHOP grew to become a community. Organizers have pitched tents and established a free food co-op, started a community garden, and set up medical stations— which are often utilized to serve homeless people and sex workers.

The area is covered in art, and there is a candlelit memorial for George Floyd and other Black people killed by police. Organizers also set up a speaker stage where discussions and teach-ins are held, as well as an outdoor projector system where occupants have screened movies. 

But CHOP also has round-the-clock security patrols, and according to some reports, some of the volunteer security guards openly carry guns despite a firearms ban within Capitol Hill imposed by Mayor Durkan.

The movement is largely leaderless, and the occupants make decisions by holding group votes. They have issued a series of demands that are quite expansive, but the main ones are centered around defunding the police and reinvesting in the community.

The demonstrators see CHOP as an example and a prototype of a police-free neighborhood, and for the most part, there has largely been almost no police presence in the area since the precinct was abandoned.

Although last week, Police Chief Best pushed back on that idea and noted that officers will go into the zone if there are threats to public safety.

“There is no cop-free zone in the city of Seattle,” she said. “I think that the picture has been painted in many areas that shows the city is under siege. That is not the case.”

Relationship With City

However, until now, the people of CHOP have largely worked and gotten along with city officials. In general, there has been peaceful dialogue and give and take from both parties.

Last week, city workers removed the makeshift barriers and replaced them with concrete blocks to open access for local traffic, sanitation trucks, and emergency workers. The move angered activists, who said it was shrinking their protest space and endangering the lives of people by creating what one demonstrator called “a drive-by shooting lane.”

Black activists in the zone agreed to honor the road during the day, but not overnight when the site was more vulnerable.

The city, for its part, has largely respected the zone and even provided them with resources. The Department of Transportation has given them portable toilets, and the Fire Department has worked as intermediaries between them and the police.

Mayor Jenny Durkan even seemed to defend CHOP after President Donald Trump attacked both it and her in a now-deleted tweet.

“Radical Left Governor @JayInslee and the Mayor of Seattle are being taunted and played at a level that our great Country has never seen before,” Trump wrote. “Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will. This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stooped IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST!” 

Durkan hit back, tweeting, “Make us all safe. Go back to your bunker. #BlackLivesMatter”

During an interview with CNN last week, Durkan also pushed back on claims that CHOP was violent.

“We have four blocks in Seattle that is more like a block party atmosphere. It’s not an armed takeover. It’s not a military junta. We will make sure that we will restore this but we have block parties and the like in this part of Seattle all the time,” she said.“There is no threat right now to the public.” 

Protesters have criticized the narrative that CHOP is just a block party or a festival, arguing that it undermines the fact that it is a serious movement.

Currently, it remains unclear how the relationship between the protesters and government officials will change. 

While there has not yet been a unified response from CHOP, some members did write an open letter proposing changes including setting up a safe use area, creating signs encouraging intoxicated people to stay away from the protest zone, and imposing a curfew at night.

But numerous demonstrators have also said they will not leave until their demands are met.

According to NPR, last week, activists said it is too early to give up the space, writing, “only a few demands have been met — a ban on police chokeholds, for example — and talks are still going on for the bigger asks, namely slashing the Seattle Police Department’s budget and redirecting funds to health and social services,” 

See what others are saying: (Seattle PI) (The New York Times) (ABC News)

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FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses

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The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.


New FDA Authorization

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.

The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.

Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.

Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.

Hazy Recommendations, For Now

Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.

The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.

In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.

However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.

An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.

Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

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Paris Hilton Urges Lawmakers To Crack Down on Abusive Teen Treatment Facilities

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The heiress alleges that she was a victim of abuse in these types of centers for two years and wants to ensure that no child suffers through the same experience.


Paris Hilton Details Abuse Within “Troubled Teen Industry”

Socialite and entrepreneur Paris Hilton spoke outside of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to support the Accountability for Congregate Care Act, which is set to be introduced in the near future.

Hilton joined Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to advocate for the legislation, which aims to create a “bill of rights” for children in treatment and behavioral centers.

The heiress has alleged that she spent two of her teenage years in these types of facilities and was subject to rampant abuse. She is far from alone. 

During a press conference, Hilton said that one night when she was 16, she woke up to two large men in her bedroom forcing her out of her house. She said she screamed for help because she thought she was being kidnapped, but her parents watched as she was taken away to a “troubled teen” program. 

“Like countless other parents of teens, my parents had searched for solutions to my rebellious behavior,” she explained in an op-ed for The Washington Post this week. “Unfortunately, they fell for the misleading marketing of the ‘troubled teen industry’ — therapeutic boarding schools, military-style boot camps, juvenile justice facilities, behavior modification programs and other facilities that generate roughly $50 billion annually in part by pitching ‘tough love’ as the answer to problematic behavior.”

Hilton said she was sent to four different facilities where she was “physically and psychologically abused.” 

“I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis, not given a proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scratch marks and smeared in blood and so much more,” she explained during the press conference. 

“At Provo Canyon School in Utah, I was given clothes with a number on the tag. I was no longer me, I was only number 127,” she continued. “I was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight, no sunlight, no fresh air. These were considered privileges.”

Goals of the  Accountability for Congregate Care Act

Hilton claims that a lack of transparency and accountability has allowed this structure of abuse to thrive for decades. In some cases, she said it has taken children’s lives. Now, she wants Congress and President Joe Biden to act. 

“This bill creates an urgently needed bill of rights to ensure that every child placed into congregate care facilities is provided a safe and humane environment,” Hilton said of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act.

“This bill of rights provides protections that I wasn’t afforded, like access to education, to the outdoors, freedom from abusive treatment, and even the basic right to move and speak freely. If I had these rights and could have exercised them, I would have been saved from over 20 years of trauma and severe PTSD.” 

Foster children, children being treated for mental disorders, and other children in youth programs would be impacted by the bill.

Hilton was one of several survivors and advocates who fought for the legislation on Wednesday. Rep. Khanna thanked them for using their stories to fight for change. 

“No child should be subjected to solitary confinement, forced labor, or any form of institutional abuse,” he wrote. “Thanks to Paris Hilton, my colleagues & the survivors & advocates who joined us today to discuss how we can hold the congregate care industry accountable.”

While only Democratic legislators are currently sponsoring the bill, Hilton called for a bipartisan effort to fight for the rights of children. 

Ensuring that children are safe from institutional abuse isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue,” Hilton said. “It’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate attention.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (NBC News)

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Surgeons Successfully Test Pig Kidney Transplant on a Human

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The procedure has been hailed as a major scientific breakthrough that could eventually open the door to a renewable source of desperately needed organs.


Groundbreaking Procedure

Surgeons at the NYU Langone Transplant Institute revealed Tuesday that they temporarily attached a kidney from a genetically modified pig to a human patient and found that it worked normally.

The operation was the first of its kind and could one day lead to a vast supply of organs for those who are in severe need. According to the Associated Press, more than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for a kidney transplant. Each day, an average of 12 die while waiting.

With the family’s consent, the groundbreaking procedure was performed on a brain-dead patient who was kept alive on a ventilator.

According to the surgeons, the pig used was genetically engineered to grow an organ that wouldn’t produce a sugar that the human immune system attacks, which would then trigger the body to reject the kidney. 

The organ was connected to blood vessels on the patient’s upper leg, outside the abdomen, and it was observed for over 54 hours, with doctors finding no signs of rejection.

Concerns and Hurdles Ahead

While the procedure was successful, this doesn’t mean it’ll be available to patients anytime soon. Several questions about long-term functionality remain, and it will still have to go through significant medical and regulatory hurdles. 

Details of the procedure haven’t even been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal yet, though there are plans for this. 

Experts are also considering the ethical implications of this type of animal-to-human transplant. For some, raising pigs to harvest their organs raises concerns about animal welfare and exploitation. Such medical procedures have already earned criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.

“Pigs aren’t spare parts and should never be used as such just because humans are too self-centered to donate their bodies to patients desperate for organ transplants,” PETA said in a statement, according to The New York Times.

On the other side of the debate are people like Dr. Robert Montgomery, the director of the N.Y.U. Langone Transplant Institute who performed the breakthrough procedure in September.

“I certainly understand the concern and what I would say is that currently about 40% of patients who are waiting for a transplant die before they receive one,” he told BBC.

“We use pigs as a source of food, we use pigs for medicinal uses – for valves, for medication. I think it’s not that different.”

See what others are saying: (CNN)(BBC) (The New York Times)

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