Seattle’s newly police-free neighborhood, explained

After eight days of continuing clashes with protesters, staff at the East Precinct police headquarters in Seattle suddenly vacated the building on Monday, June 8, shredding documents and leaving it empty.

Among protesters, there was initial confusion over why police would outright leave, but organizers suspected a trap.

“The SPD seem like what they wanted to do is abandon the East Precinct and then wait on the borders, just like a few blocks away, for somebody to try to set a fire to repeat what was going on in Minneapolis,” Carla, a protester who is being identified by a pseudonym to protect her privacy, told Vox. “Then they can rush in and say, ‘Now our use of military force against unarmed civilians is justified.’”

But that’s not what happened. Instead, protesters set about creating a peaceful — and safe — police-free neighborhood. And the officers largely haven’t bothered to come back.

The zone, where hundreds of people can be found on any given day, is largely leaderless, with decisions often being made by vote. But volunteers have stepped in anyway, doing everything from distributing food to cleaning up garbage in the area. The vibe there is pretty relaxed, said Carla.

“It’s really hard to pin this place down,” she said. “This is a place that is built and maintained by marginalized people, and they’re the voices that are driving this.”

Yet right-wing media has painted CHAZ as some kind of war zone, portraying the tiny neighborhood as if it were forcibly seceding from the US. While protest organizers in the area are understandably reticent to speak with reporters — several protest leaders did not respond to interview requests from Vox — there is no hint of the violence suggested by the likes of Fox News.

Seattle’s newly police-free neighborhood, explained
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