- 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.
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)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Axios)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.