With the return of the Seattle Police Department to its abandoned East Precinct building looming, the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) area was shrinking Wednesday, but a group of demonstrators say they have no plans to leave the site.
“Our demands aren’t met,” said one man who had set up his tent outside the precinct building at 12th Avenue and East Pine Street. “Why would we leave?”
They refuted a tweet from an “official” CHOP Twitter account posted Wednesday that said the “CHOP project is now concluded.” It’s unclear who runs the Twitter account, which signed a letter as “the Capitol Hill Solidarity Committee” and included a call to reelect Mayor Jenny Durkan in 2021. Some local news outlets published stories that the CHOP was being dismantled, citing the tweet.
But demonstrators in the CHOP said they hadn’t heard about the tweet or any plans for the occupation’s conclusion. Omari Salisbury, a Seattle-based citizen journalist with Converge Media who has been documenting the protests in the city and subsequent CHOP (previously named CHAZ), called the announcement “fake news.”
After a weekend of violence, however, the area has shrunk considerably. A U.S. Postal Service van was parked in an area on 12th Avenue at East Pike Street that had previously been blocked by barricades. Eleventh Avenue between Pike and Pine streets was empty. Tents are still set up on the perimeter of the Bobby Morris Playfield next to Cal Anderson Park, and a handful remain in the park.
The sign with the protest’s three central demands remains on 12th Avenue, but now commuters can drive by it. The demands are defunding the Seattle Police Department, reallocating that money to Black community institutions and releasing all jailed protesters through dropping all criminal charges.
Karim, 23, who did not provide a last name, said he originally went to the area to ensure that his friends felt safe and decided to stay. He wants to preserve the CHOP, “because there aren’t a lot of places like this.” If the Police Department listened to the community, he added, its leaders wouldn’t have any trouble taking back the East Precinct.
“We’re living life,” he said. “There’s no knees on necks here.”