We ventured up to the city today to get a sense of what all the fuss was about. CHAZ, as it’s called, is several blocks on Capitol Hill near Cal Anderson Park. The acronym stands for Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. (To me it doesn’t sound particularly menacing and so I was prepared to be IN it, rather than just looking (and judging) from outside. )
The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, referred to simply as the Zone and formerly known as Free Capitol Hill, is a self-declared autonomous zone in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington.
We know that outlets like Fox News have been portraying this area as dangerous and to be feared. I don’t watch that particular kind of TV but I’ve heard that they had to use images from other cities in order to maximize the fear. They have tried to portray it as rioters and looters, rage and chaos. Sigh. When did the truth become so questionable, or worse, negotiable ?
Tents are set up at Cal Anderson Park with everything from food and clothes, to toiletries and medical services. There are people in masks and opportunities to donate. Tents line the perimeter of the area. It might make you wonder if CHAZ has done more for the area homeless in several days than the City of Seattle has done in several years. Essential service and supplies and a place to lay their head. Is it really so complicated ?
As much as I want to support the city’s lesbian mayor, I struggle. I want to believe she is trying to understand the complexity of these problems with compassion. That she has stopped trying to “manage” things and has begun to listen. This has been an extraordinary push toward justice. If it fails, it will be a failure of imagination. It will be a failure of compassion. A failure of simple, human decency. These are the things CHAZ brings to the table. It’s up to the city to meet them where they are. It’s time.
The problems of racial inequality, homelessness and a growing class divide are not going away. This march toward a more equal society with a new chorus of voices will not fade. Momentemum now, favors the determined. It favors creative solutions. It favors love over fear. And that’s exactly what it looks like in CHAZ.
I entered CHAZ as a witness. A messenger. I offer images that tell a story that you don’t need me to tell. In fact, it’s never been my story to tell at all. Here’s my job: If I see injustice, I say something. If I hear hate speech, I do something. If I witness the portrayal of a person or place as untrue, I stand up and make it right.
This is my standing up. I’m sharing the images that tell the story. If it makes you uncomfortable, if you feel fearful, if you feel violated or insulted, maybe that’s exactly the point. Maybe once you identify what it is that makes you feel so uncomfortable about the peaceful take-over of space, maybe that’s where the conversation begins. Maybe that cracks open the door of understanding.