Walk out of my apartment and look to your left. The first thing you’ll see is graffiti on the pavement that reads “Antifa Outreach”.
If your media diet mostly consists of conservative fear-mongering about the Democratic party, you’re already terrified for me.
Yes, those violent thugs and lawless anarchists have moved in next door, just like Trump said! But fear not, I live in anarchist jurisdiction, the city of Seattle, not the suburbs. Noisy neighbors and the existence of people without homes are not new experiences for me.
Usually, the outreach consists of a few folks hanging out near a tent or folding table. Some days, there are colorfully painted vans or a repurposed school bus parked nearby. People catch up and laugh as most humans do. Of course, they’re here for a reason — violent anarchy.
Sorry, did I say violent anarchy? I meant public service, something that used to be celebrated by evangelicals before their president showed off his big brain by not paying taxes his entire life. These Antifa nuts spend their day collecting food, water, and PPE donations for the houseless encampment that occupies a portion of the park behind their table. Oh, the humanity.
The “Antifa outreach” table is less of a “get to know your local super solider” meet-and-greet, and more of a constant reminder that Seattle is home to an estimated 12,500 citizens without shelter, a problem deeply worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of course, I am being purposefully pedantic. The group congregates in front of Cal Anderson Park, now infamous and controversial due to its hosting of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. At night, the park still serves as a home base of sorts for those all-black wearing protesters that just won’t quit.
But during the day, a semi-staffed table and a few dozen tents that occupy the park are all that remains from the CHOP/CHAZ experiment. A considerable failure to appease protesters that strongly dislike Mayor Durkan, the police-free protest zone ended after multiple late-night shootings in the area resulted in the tragic deaths of two minors. Upon return to the East Precinct, blue lives inside were ready to send a message.
During the era of CHOP/CHAZ, the poorly-located precinct building was transformed into a space for free speech discussions on race and the everyday experience of living while Black. Today, thanks in part to interim police Chief Adrian Diaz, the building is reoccupied and heavily fortified from the public.
When first leaving the area back in June, Police Chief Carmen Best and conservative critics were sure Black Lives Matter protesters would burn the building down once the troops left the clubhouse. Now, the situation in Capitol Hill during CHOP/CHAZ was not perfect. As mentioned before, two people were tragically killed in the area, and some small businesses here are now suing the city of Seattle for their role in the chaos.
But, facing a reduction in salary and an increase in citizen accountability, Chief Best decided it was..ahem..best, to resign and collect her pension, rather than commit to the hard work involved in enacting meaningful change in police behavior and culture. These days, Interim Chief Diaz felt the need to send a direct message to the community this building allegedly serves. If anyone questions the Seattle Police Department or expects its officers to be held to any consequential behavioral standard, you can expect tear gas, rubber bullets, and an extreme waste of resources to quash that nonsense.
Despite Seattle City Council’s recent vote to reduce SPD’s budget by 3% for the remainder of 2020, it seems the East Precinct, much like Seattle’s bloated and fraudulent overtime resources, is here to stay.
As a resident, I want to make one thing clear here. I do not believe the unsightly fortification built on Pine Street is here to protect police officers from rioters or violent anarchists. To say any officer is ever in real danger during a protest is misleading at best; the department has been sure to outnumber protesters 3-to-1 for months.
These officers have not returned to stop crime in the area either. SPD still ignores emergency calls and actual crime in Capitol Hill because they’re busy getting their jollies from violating the First Amendment rights of citizens. I guess it can’t be easy to arrest one junkie smashing windows while you’re busy surrounding and attacking protesters for the heinous act of being outside at night.
No, this cinder block blight on the neighborhood exists to protect the police from acknowledging or communicating with the community they supposedly serve.
If you think Capitol Hill residents like myself are tired of nightly protests, vagrancy, and smashed windows, you’d be right. But, speaking for myself here, the constant siren temper tantrums, munition explosions, and the stench of tear-gas being sprayed down residential streets and into apartment windows by Seattle’s finest bothers me more.
So yes, the folks outside can be loud at night. I don’t agree with everything they say or want all the time. And I especially don’t enjoy the cover protesting the police gives degenerates who smash windows, usually when suffering from a mental health crisis. But, “Antifa” living next door is not what keeps me up at night.
Being policed by an out-of-control and unaccountable gang that does not represent the community of Capitol Hill is what keeps me up at night. The president of the United States telling the antagonistic and antisemitic Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” on national TV keeps me up at night. The presidential acknowledgment of a group that has infiltrated many police departments nationwide and attacked residents of my neighborhood before is what keeps me up at night.
The marching orders sent out to the white supremacists of the world from the president were heard loud and clear. That’s why I can foresee a future where these racists and religious zealots decide to charge into my neighborhood under the guise of “liberating” me from my unhoused neighbors. I can foresee a future where the police claim to be unable to stop these bad actors, in part because they want those who dare to call out their bad behavior gone too.
Right now, in the wealthiest country in the world, chaos and violence after our supposedly-democratic election looks inevitable. Militia groups like the Proud Boys are gearing up to return to nearby Portland to cause trouble in Trump’s honor; Capitol Hill could be next. So no, a group of folks hanging out on the corner, picking up the government’s slack to provide for those who have nothing does not scare me; it makes me feel hopeful.
To put it plainly, Antifa is just another minority group that Trump and his sycophants seek to demonize so you can care less about their means of disposing of them. Trump’s first swing at this was separating immigrant families at the border, preying on racist tropes and American apathy to do so. Now, these disturbing tactics are being used against American citizens.
I think all of this, to some extent, is nothing more than a sideshow for both Trump and the SPD. The more the conversation is about anarchy and chaos and cop’s feelings getting hurt, the less the protests are about protecting Black lives.
Taking money away from a bloated and fraudulent police department to fund communities should not be controversial. Protesting an out-of-control police force that is often proactively violent and increasingly opaque to the public should be celebrated. And in a time when far-right militia groups plan to commit violence in my neighborhood because an authoritarian orange told them to, being “anti-fascist” is the most American thing you can be.
Black Lives Still Matter.