CHAZ to CHOP: Seattle’s ‘autonomous zone,’ area occupied by protesters, gets new name

Police Chief Carmen Best speaks at press conference on police response in Seattle

SEATTLE — Protesters occupying a portion of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood have given it a new name, KIRO-TV is reporting.

A welcome sign now reads CHOP, which stands for “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest.” The area was first called the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ.

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As demonstrations continued Sunday for the 17th consecutive day, there were talks among the city of Seattle, demonstrators, and people who live and work in that area about the future of the protest zone.

One property owner said there were serious concerns, such as first responders not being able to drive emergency vehicles through the area, which has been busy. Still, he said he believed in a path forward.

Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins was among those also engaged in the talks with key players from the occupied area.

“We’re trying to work through different plans,” Scoggins said. “There have been incidents inside the area, and we’ve been in communication with the teams and working at handoff points and, so that’s been our plan up to this point. But what we know is that’s a limited plan.”

One proposal being considered by the city is to have a smaller protest area, which would keep some parts for walking only while opening up other parts to traffic for first responders and businesses.

Ron Amundson, a property owner, supports that.

“That’s the main concern right now is not having the ability to respond to a life-threatening emergency,” said Amundson, who was involved in the talks. “Many businesses are afraid to open.”

Amundson said some people are packing up.

“Was told eight was leaving one property and many others are leaving the other properties,” Amundson said.

CHOP representatives said crowds in the area could be good for businesses but also expressed a willingness to consider a new footprint for the area. They are also worried that adding drivers to the mix could lead to potential deliberate attacks on protesters.

“It needs leadership and organization, and I think we can do it. I think that what we don’t want to do is allow bad actors and hijack the protest with their agendas. We don’t want this to end badly,” Amundson said.

A property owner told KIRO-TV they don’t have a timeline for moving forward on any changes in the area.

The city said it’s still working with demonstrators on their demands for reforms, which have already led to some police policy changes.

A sign reads "Welcome to CHOP," Sunday, June 14, 2020, inside what has been named the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone in Seattle.
A sign reads "Welcome to CHOP," Sunday, June 14, 2020, inside what has been named the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)