Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone/Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHAZ/CHOP) emerged from struggle and resistance against the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and its East Precinct in defense of Black lives. No single group fought in the streets against cops–instead, many different people from many different belief systems and organizations who all agreed that anti-Black police violence must end struggled together against the SPD and lifted demands for defunding SPD. Following SPD abandoning the East Precinct, thousands of people have helped hold the blocks around the precinct, providing decentralized support to each other. From food tents, to medics, to healing spaces, to political education, CHAZ/CHOP has provided a space to experiment with self-governance and self-determination, without police presence.
Last night’s shooting at CHAZ/CHOP is a tragedy. Our task now is to support the family and community of the person killed, the people injured in the shooting, and the people who witnessed the shooting.
We know that in every neighborhood of our city, violence is a constant. We know that police do not stop violence. We know that violence happens even when the police are present. Less than a year ago, a Black woman was killed on the same block as last night’s shooting, with the East Precinct fully staffed with officers only 200 feet away. The presence of police did not stop that death.
We also know that Seattle police do cause violence, including murdering people like Charleena Lyles, John T. Williams, and many others. Resistance against police violence and calls for a radical shift away from policing is why so many people have engaged with the global and local protests, and with CHAZ/CHOP. Police don’t keep us safe, we keep us safe. Last night’s shooting should redirect us to the task at hand – to defend Black lives by dismantling the Seattle Police Department and investing in real community safety.
We don’t yet know who was responsible for last night’s violence. It could have been carried out by people who know each other, or it could have been carried out by a stranger. We know that most violence occurs between people who know each other, such as family members, romantic partners, and neighbors, and that policing and criminalization are ineffective at preventing or addressing it. We also know that racism and sexism are the causes of enormous violence, and that police violence is a part of that, not a solution. Whatever the cause of last night’s shooting, real solutions do not look like continuing to fund and support the police. If we want to stop violence, we need to resource people and communities in a way this City has never committed to doing. We need people housed, we need people fed, we need healthcare for all, we need childcare for all, and we need real investments in the programs and communities that are developing to replace police responses to violence.
Decriminalize Seattle is a grassroots coalition building power in Seattle to invest in pro-community initiatives and divest from policing and the criminal legal system. We coordinate the campaign to defund SPD, reinvest in community, and free all protestors.
If you need immediate emotional support in the aftermath of last night’s shooting, you can reach out to Healing Justice via text or e-mail: 425.243.7855, firstname.lastname@example.org. Healing Justice’s team of practitioners is composed of mental health therapists, counselors, and somatic practitioners with long histories inside of social justice movements and in trauma healing.