'There's been tension and paranoia': A 16-year-old boy has been killed in yet another shooting in Seattle's CHOP autonomous zone

·4 min read
People walk through the area known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) on June 26, 2020, in Seattle, Washington.
People walk through the area known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) on June 26, 2020, in Seattle, Washington.

David Ryder/Getty Images

  • Two teenagers were shot in Seattle's quasi-autonomous zone, the CHOP, on Monday morning.

  • One of the victims, a 16-year-old boy, was killed, and the other is in critical condition.

  • The latest shooting has put the police-free CHOP, or Capitol Hill Occupation Protest, under scrutiny.

  • City officials like Mayor Jenny Durkan and Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best say the CHOP is unsafe.

  • Protesters disagree, saying that a renewed police presence in the CHOP could escalate tension.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Two teenage boys, aged 16 and 14, were shot in Seattle's Capitol Hill Occupation Protest (CHOP) area on Monday. The 16-year-old was killed, and the 14-year-old is in critical condition.

By midday Tuesday, the city Department of Transportation began to dismantle some of the barriers erected by protesters, an apparent response to the violence.

The Seattle Police Department received several reports of shots fired in the CHOP around 3 a.m. Callers said that several people had fired shots into a Jeep, according to a police statement.

"When investigators arrived, they found a white Jeep Cherokee riddled with bullet holes on 12th Avenue," Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best told KOMO, a local news organization.

The CHOP, which emerged as a police-free "autonomous zone" several weeks ago as part of protests against police violence, has been subject to a spate of violent attacks. Four others have been shot there in the last two weeks, including a 19-year-old who was killed.

The incidents have increased scrutiny of the CHOP. It's a "real problem," Best said. "Why would we continue to allow this to happen?"

Last week, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that the autonomous zone would end, and that police "will be returning to the East Precinct." She didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

The number of people in the zone has decreased over the past several weeks, according to CNN. And while the remaining occupants of the autonomous zone are concerned about violence, not all of them believe the experiment should be ended.

Jack, a Seattle resident who lives near the CHOP and participated in the protest that led Seattle Police to abandon the East Precinct earlier in June, said the atmosphere has gotten more tense.

"Early on it was a very positive vibe — a festival vibe that everyone was talking about — for better or worse," said Jack, who asked for Insider to withhold his name out of fear of police retaliation. "Since then there's been a tension and paranoia. It's not as comfortable."

seattle capitol hill autonomous zone
Seattle's autonomous zone in early June.

David Ryder/Getty Images

Jack said that the CHOP's organizers have been trying to keep the project going, but the uptick in violence has made things more difficult.

"They're trying to center the message a little more, but especially with the city moving the barricades and the city communicating with nobody-knows-who and the shootings, it's really just uncomfortable and paranoid more than anything," he said.

The future of the CHOP is unclear

Police started openly staffing parts of the precinct, he said, adding that there were disagreements among CHOP organizers and protesters about whether any officers should be let into the area — formerly known as the CHAZ, or Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone — at all.

"With the constant threat of police coming back, there are just massive amounts of paranoia," Jack said.

Participation in the zone has waned slightly as protesters have taken action in other parts of the city — like one outside the mayor's home — but said it was possible protesters could pick up speed should police try to retake the East Precinct, especially if they used force.

Jack, who emphasized his views came from his perspective of a white man who was a participant but not an organizer of the CHOP, said the region wasn't really meant to be a permanent autonomous zone and was always meant to function until the city met the demonstrator's demands.

Those demands include defunding the police department, ending citywide gentrification, and diverting city funds to social and community services.

Still, the immediate future of the area is unclear, he said, amid the shootings and officials' plans to return the police force to Capitol Hill.

This article has been updated.

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