‘It was complete confusion’: Seattle activist reflects one year after the CHOP took over the East Precinct
A year later, the CHOP in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood continues to spark discussions and debates.
SEATTLE – It’s been a year since police left the East Precinct in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood after protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The protesters set up camp around the East Precinct of the Seattle Police Department and called it the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, better known as CHOP. The CHOP comprised six city blocks and lasted until July 1, 2020, when the police evacuated the area and finally re-entered their precinct.
A year later, cement barricades no longer surround the building at 12th and Pine, but a secure fence lines the property and the windows are still boarded up.
Many people remember pictures of protesters facing police when they look at the intersection of 11th and Pine.
“The death of George Floyd was an injustice no one could deny,” said Mark Anthony, who joined others in 2020 in protesting police brutality.
After days of protests, East Precinct officials removed sensitive equipment and documents on June 8, 2020 after Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan ordered the removal of police lines and barriers that formed a protective perimeter around the district.
“I remember going around asking people where the police went? Come back? When are you coming back? It was just utter confusion, ”said Anthony.
What followed was the CHOP and Anthony said he had become an active member of the protest movement.
“I just hopped on a microphone and people encouraged me to do it. Because of the people who saw me as a leader and things like that, I became one of the celebrities at CHOP, ”said Anthony.
On the weekends, the blocks were filled with art and people to talk to, but at night there was also fear of violence.
The CHOP experienced four shootings in 10 days. A 16-year-old and a 19-year-old were killed in the shootings and four other people were shot, including a 14-year-old boy. After the third shooting, Seattle mayor and now former police chief Carmen Best announced the city’s intention to dismantle the CHOP.
Anthony believes the CHOP made change, but there is more to be done. “My main concern is that I want to see a demilitarized police force,” said Anthony.
During the protests, the Seattle City Council promised to drastically cut police funding, but a year later these discussions are ongoing.
In Olympia, Governor Jay Inslee signed a package of laws during this legislative period aimed at reforming the police. The bills include measures to prohibit police from using strangle arms, neck braces and arrest warrants, limit the use of tear gas and vehicle chases, and require officials to intervene if their colleagues use excessive force.
A year later, Anthony said the CHOP was still sparking debate and discussion.
Anthony founded a non-profit organization called CHOP Art that collects the art that covered the CHOP and uses it to teach and promote social justice. He believes churches can learn many lessons from the CHOP.
“It gave people the opportunity to unite for a common cause, a common good. That we stand behind something and can inspire ourselves for a positive change that affects us all, ”said Anthony.