Revisiting CHOP

Capitol Hill Occupied/Organized Protest - Sunday June 14 from 11:00AM to 12:30AM

This post makes reference to part 1

I went back to CHOP on Sunday June 15. I'm going to highlight my key takeaways and experiences and let the photos do the rest of the talking.

There were way more people out and about at CHOP at noon on a Sunday than at 11 on a Friday. It felt like a summer festival, but with Black Lives Matter as the central theme. There was a bubble blowing man, a jazz bluegrass band and a guy selling Black Lives Matter shirts and masks. The police precinct had a few new signs and looked a lot more put together. There was an Indigenous People's display telling Washington governor Inslee to defund fossil fuel projects.

I spotted Shirley - the black woman from the previous post who was concerned about lack of BLM organization at CHOP - organizing a workshop with a large group of black folks to identify mission and message. James from the previous post was also assisting in the organization. The workshop was considered "Private" and positioned itself down a long alleyway, since technically all of CHOP is out in the open. I spoke with the volunteers guarding the entrance - one of them with a James Baldwin novel on his lap - and experienced the following.

  • A young white man was visibly angry. His black friend showed up, and per their conversation: someone was a jerk to the black guy, the white guy wanted to defend his friend and fight the guy, while the black friend wanted nothing to do with it. The white guy continued defending his rage and justification of violence in defense of his friend. I confirmed with the black volunteer that we just witnessed an example of a white ally wanting to help but not actually listening to the black person/people he's trying to help.
  • An older white man exited the alley, appearing to have just walked through the workshop. He yelled a few swear words and gave them the middle finger before leaving the alley. Fortunately I didn't hear any racial slurs.
  • Another older white man with an impressive zoom lens lined up in front of the alley to take photos of the workshop. For the safety of the volunteers, everyone in the area informed this man that this event was private and he shouldn't be taking photos. He responded, without putting his camera down, that this is "public property and therefore this is his right." I stepped in front of his lens and said while this is true, we are respectfully asking him not to engage in this behavior. He responded by saying that we were infringing on his constitutional rights, and that we were all hypocrites for fighting for "The very rights that you are now stripping me of." I asked him that if he did take any photos, to please blur out the faces. He responds "Why do you think I'd listen to anything you have to say to me?"

I also spoke with one of the volunteers of the No Cop Co-Op. I asked him how he got involved, and he said he showed up the day before and asked how he could help. He'd been working ever since, as he worked the night watch through the night, and was now making tomato soup for people. He also made reference to a person - "Mama" - who was a figure of authority. "Mama told me to take watch of the co-op to ensure there wasn't any looting." I hope he's gotten some rest.

Now that the work week is back upon us, I probably won't be returning to CHOP until next weekend. I hope it remains the self-sustaining pro-social community it's become. I hope black organizers are able to seize the narrative and drive lasting social change.

Thanks for reading.

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