Is Seattle’s ‘CHOP’ coverage deliberately misleading?

Seattle’s nationally infamous protest occupied zone is now called the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest. (Screen snip, YouTube, Fox Business)

UPDATED – 6/16 @ 12:10 P.M. — Is news coverage of the so-called “Capitol Hill Occupying Protest” (CHOP) zone—formerly known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone—deliberately misleading?

It must be, if one reads reports from journalist Andy Ngo, interviewed by Fox News. He told Fox the six-block “occupied zone” is something of a Jekyll and Hyde experience, all warmth and love fest during the daylight hours but considerably different when the sun goes down.

Seattle’s KOMO, the local ABC affiliate, ran what some thought was a puff piece on the CHOP during its evening news Monday. It portrays the area as something of a tourist attraction.

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Jason Rantz, a conservative Seattle radio talk host who has been getting lots of face time lately on Fox News, also challenges the image and popular narrative, writing at MyNorthwest.com, “CHOP is not a peaceful, social justice utopia where Antifa, anarchists, and community organizers come together for meaningful discussions on policy. It’s a cop-free zone of fringe ideologues, well-intended activists, and tourists looking to be part of something that unfortunately is becoming a something to parody.

“It’s peaceful, until it’s not,” Rantz maintains. “Suggesting otherwise is willful ignorance.”

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best insists it is not a “cop-free zone.” She did acknowledge that response times to crimes reported in the CHOP have tripled in some cases.

Yet broadcast journalist Brandi Kruse with KCPQ News, the local Fox affiliate, had this to say on social media: “CHOP is not a ‘block party,’ nor is it a ‘violent extremist takeover.’ As is the case with most things, the reality is somewhere in the middle. The media and elected leaders should do a better job of describing a complicated situation without making broad generalizations. The safety of peaceful protesters, police, the press, and residents in the area depends on the words we choose. Choose wisely.”

The CHOP also appears to be a study in liberal municipal hypocrisy. A widely-viewed video now spreading across social media shows a man issuing an AR-15 to a younger person, perhaps a teen, who claimed an ability to handle a firearm but appears immediately to have trouble with the rifle’s controls.

This transfer would be clearly illegal under the “universal background check” requirements of Initiative 594, pushed into law following a $10.2 million campaign financed by the Seattle-based Alliance for Gun Responsibility, a billionaire-backed gun prohibition lobbying group, in 2014. It’s also a violation of Initiative 1639, which prohibits transfer of a so-called “semiautomatic assault rifle” to anyone under age 21, or to any adult over that age without an enhanced background check, 10-day waiting period and proof of having completed a firearms safety course during the previous five years. That measure passed in 2018 after another multi-million-dollar campaign, and the measure was heavily supported in Seattle.

While some local news reports have downplayed the presence of armed security inside the CHOP, the video and other images on social media belie that narrative.

On the other hand, should people readily believe the “worst-case” scenarios now being portrayed by Ngo, Rantz and others? Maybe not, especially if one is determined to prove this takeover of six blocks on Seattle’s Capitol Hill by protesters is just a big street fair.

While the CHOP calls itself a zone that is not part of the city or even the country, there are images of a hand-written sign detailing supplies the inhabitants need. The sign suggests it’s a socialist haven dependent upon surrounding capitalists to provide food and other supplies.

And now Fox News is reporting the city and occupying protesters have “reached a deal” to remove temporary roadblocks that were placed in streets by protesters, and replace them with concrete barriers. However, local radio is reporting the CHOP zone is shrinking dramatically as a result, to about a one-block area, instead of six.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office issued an announcement at noon Tuesday, elaborating on the details of changes being made to the CHOP.

“In coordination with protesters onsite,” the statement said, “work began at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday to remove a tent barrier at 10th and Pine and replace it with a sturdier concrete barrier to improve public safety. The City has successfully worked with protesters onsite to reconfigure the CHOP to allow for public safety and better access for the local community. That has involved rerouting traffic, freeing up alley access, opened streets, and replacing makeshift barriers with heavy concrete barriers that can be painted.

“The area adjacent to Cal Anderson park on Pine between 10th and 11th will remain closed. This street is now home to the Black Lives Matter street art,” the statement added. “A top priority for community access is opening 12th Avenue, a City arterial road, which typically carries more traffic. Under these changes, 12th Ave will become one way on the south side of Pine St in order to accommodate a protest zone in the west lanes and allow access and movement of vehicles in the east lanes. An alley access zone was also set up on the South side of Pine between 11th and 12th to allow for apartment building access.

“The Seattle Police Department will dispatch to respond to significant life-safety issues in the area. The Seattle Police Department’s definition of life-safety issues may include an active shooter incident, an assault, a structure fire, significant medical emergency (i.e. heart attack, stroke, trauma) and other incidents that threaten a person’s life safety.”


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