Seattle city crews make major changes to CHAZ/CHOP protest zone

SEATTLE — Big changes are happening at the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, or CHOP (formerly known as CHAZ – Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone).

All morning starting around 7 a.m. Tuesday, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and Seattle Fire Department have been trucking out orange barricades, and moving concrete barricades.

The changes will partially open up some roads around the access zone for residents, delivery drivers, and emergency vehicles.

Front loaders moved concrete barricades scrawled with messages like “FREE CAP HILL” all morning.

The changes are something some protesters say they worked with the city to make.

“This change is going to open traffic back up to over a thousand residents on 12th Street, and that’s really important to us. And it’s important to keep our protesters safe,” said a protester who says he helps provide security for CHOP. He asked to be identified as Cove.

Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins, who has been on scene at the protest nearly every day since Seattle police left the east precinct, was there again Tuesday.

He said some protesters were worried someone else would drive into the crowds there, so SDOT was removing plastic barricades and relocating some concrete ones, which would help provide safety.

The changes also improves access for emergency vehicles as well as deliveries for businesses, and for residents’ vehicles.

Cove said they are showing they are not an "autonomous zone" and can work with the city of Seattle. SDOT, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and Seattle Fire were all on scene working Tuesday.

“We are not a right wing, or left wing radical faction. We are members of the community and that's it. I think being in sync with public utility and the fire chief is really going to go a long way to show that,” Cove said.

Residents and property owners in the area came to watch the developments today.

“There are some people now taking charge and making some good things happen,” said Ron Amundson, a property owner in the area. He said some businesses held off on re-opening from COVID because of the protests.

“It’s safe and I'd encourage you to come back and open up,” Amundson said.

But not everyone is on board. Maurice Cola is one of the prominent voices during the Seattle protests in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and said the change is not welcome.

“It’s a disappointing one. Because the city is trying to sanction this event, which is a protest - which means we'll lose all our leverage and the work we've done,” Cola said.

“By accommodating this which we didn't ask for is not going to help, it's just going to make it easier for them to step in later,” Cola said.

Many people from protesters to residents in the area say the protest in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood has lost some of its focus

“This is not Coachella. We are not hosting a free block party, this is a political movement,” Cola said.

That core message is something they’re hoping to bring back.

“This is our moment right now so we don’t want you to come out here and put your agenda in place for your movement. This is Black Lives Matter for blacks to stop being killed, and for us to get our fair shake in America that we haven’t gotten so far,” said Richard Harris.

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