Reflections on the Revolution in CHAZ

Elie Aoun ’21

 Residents of CHAZ make a communal garden by dumping topsoil on pizza boxes.

To the history of failed communist states, we can add the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ). Established on June 8, 2020 in downtown Seattle by Antifa sympathizers, BLM extremists and other anarcho-communists agitators, CHAZ is a fascinating case study into the anatomy of fringe left-wing ideology. Owing to a lack of police action by Seattle leaders, CHAZ criminals were able to control six city blocks for over three full weeks. The breakaway nation can provide modern readers insight into what would happen to the rest of America if the principles of CHAZ were universally adopted. CHAZ was founded on the principle that the USA is an oppressive fascististic capitalist regime that systematically oppresses African Americans, so a “police-free zone” needed to be created as an alternative to the broken American system. However, it turns out that creating a new nation and maintaining order with nothing except social justice theory is a difficult task for bourgeois college students. When the residents of CHAZ attempted to start an agricultural industry, they demonstrated their lack of any real working knowledge. For a group of communists who claim to stand for the working class, their collective farm was a laughing stock: it consisted of bags of topsoil dumped on cardboard pizza boxes. The entire state of CHAZ resembled a warzone; homeless people and graffiti were present in every corner of the city blocks of CHAZ.

Ironically, for a group of anarchists who oppose borders and immigration laws, the first thing the agitators did when they took over the land of CHAZ was set up a guarded perimeter across the new country. Perhaps some of them realized that controlling immigration is essential to the security of a country. Furthermore, the anti-police anarchists set up a “CHAZ Security Force” to maintain law and order. The state of affairs in CHAZ, though they appear like a political satire novel, ended in tragedy for real human beings. 

Safety in CHAZ was a nightmare. The real people who lived in the six city blocks of CHAZ were forced to live in terror for weeks. Property theft was rampant and people were harassed daily by armed anarchists. Videos show that gunshots rang out in the new nation every night. Two African American males, Lorenzo Anderson Jr. aged 19 and Antonio Mays Jr. aged 16, were fatally shot in CHAZ. Several more African Americans were shot and injured. The CHAZ experiment led to injuries and deaths of the exact group the breakaway nation was supposedly set up to protect.

For weeks, the mayor of Seattle Jenny Durkan insisted that CHAZ was just a “block party” and a “Summer of Love.” She took no police or legal action against the CHAZ anarchists for weeks and instead implicitly allowed them to control six city blocks where ordinary people live and work. Her lack of response illuminated her cowardice and unspoken willingness to kowtow to the wills of destructive anarchists. It took multiple shootings and deaths for her to shut down the violent breakaway state in her city. On July 1, 2020, twenty four days after its founding, the Seattle Police Department was allowed to enter CHAZ and shut down the violent failed state.

What will the legacy of CHAZ be? To some, CHAZ was an unserious experiment by young idealists that is not important to examine. To others, CHAZ was a window into the inevitable failure of utopian ideology when put into practice. The real question, however, is who will remember the names of Lorenzo Anderson Jr. and Antonio Mays Jr.? When CHAZ is forgotten and swept into the dustbin of American history, will their lives have mattered?

 CHAZ residents set up barricades to protect their new break-away nation.

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