This week, sixteen residents and businesses in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle sued the city for violating their rights by supporting the Capitol Hill
Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) Occupied Protest (CHOP), perhaps best described as antifa-stan. The businesses support the free speech rights of protesters in CHOP antifa-stan, but that does not mean Seattle is off the hook for depriving these businesses and people of their rights to property, due process, and more by enabling the lawlessness of CHOP antifa-stan.
“Rather than seeking to restore order and protect the residents and property owners within CHOP, the City instead chose to actively endorse, enable, and participate in the occupation of CHOP,” the class-action lawsuit alleges. This violated the rights of residents and businesses.
“The property owners, businesses, and residents in the area suffer ever-increasing property damage and economic loss every day that CHOP exists in their neighborhood, all because of the city’s active support, encouragement, and endorsement of the occupation,” the suit claims. “In particular, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has provided the CHOP participants with not just tangible resources but also a de facto stamp of approval.”
Seattle Police abandoned the East Precinct station on June 8, allowing a loose band of anarchists, antifa instigators, Black Lives Matter protesters, and others to seize the station and six city blocks, declaring the area an “autonomous zone” separate from the United States. City leaders not only allowed this to happen but aided and even praised the rebels, with Mayor Jenny Durkan even suggesting that CHOP would become a “Summer of Love.” When President Donald Trump urged Durkan and Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) to restore order, they acted as though he had urged them to commit atrocities against peaceful protesters.
“This lawsuit is about the constitutional and other legal rights of Plaintiffs—businesses, employees, and residents in and around CHOP—which have been overrun by the City of Seattle’s unprecedented decision to abandon and close off an entire city neighborhood, leaving it unchecked by the police, unserved by fire and emergency health services, and inaccessible to the public at large,” the plaintiffs explain.
“The City’s decision has subjected businesses, employees, and residents of that neighborhood to extensive property damage, public safety dangers, and an inability to use and access their properties.”
The plaintiffs, including a tattoo parlor and an auto repair shop, alleged that Seattle helped CHOP antifa-stan in at least four concrete ways: it left up the barriers to city streets, it provided more concrete barriers to CHOP antifa-stan, it provided portable toilets that are regularly serviced, and it provided medical equipment, including beds and other supplies, to the CHOP “medical tent.”
On June 22, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best stated that reports to police demonstrate some CHOP antifa-stan participants are “engaging in shootings, a rape, assaults, burglary, arson, and property destruction, and I have their police reports right here. I’m not making it up. These things have happened.”
Thanks in part to the barricades Seattle provided to CHOP, freedom of movement has been severely restricted. The area’s “borders have, at times, been guarded by armed CHOP participants who oversee who can or cannot enter CHOP. As a result, the streets are barred to most all vehicular traffic, making it virtually impossible for residents and businesses to access their buildings, receive deliveries, and provide goods and services to the few customers willing to enter CHOP.”
By refusing to intervene, Seattle “has enabled the widespread destruction and vandalism of private property. Graffiti is pervasive throughout CHOP—it is not only on barriers, streets, sidewalks, but also on nearly every private building within CHOP.”
Residents recalled receiving threats of violence should they remove graffiti.
“Graffiti that is painted over almost immediately returns, and property owners have been told by CHOP participants that if they dare to paint over graffiti, their buildings will be more severely vandalized or even burned to the ground. The City has done nothing to prevent this conduct, but, instead, has actively endorsed and supported the ongoing occupation of the CHOP area and the destruction of property that accompanies it,” the lawsuit alleges.
According to the lawsuit, Seattle’s enabling of CHOP antifa-stan has deprived residents and businesses of “public-safety assistance even in life-threatening circumstances,” has “impeded access to and use of property,” and more.
The lawsuit makes five claims against Seattle. By enabling antifa-stan, Seattle violated plaintiffs’ rights to procedural due process (by depriving them of rights without warning or recourse), to freedom from public nuisance, and to substantive due process (by increasing the likelihood of property damage, loss of business revenue, personal injury, and more).
Seattle also allegedly gave an “unlawful gift” to the rioters. “The City has ceded to CHOP the public’s property interests in Cal Anderson Park, the Seattle Police Department East Precinct building, multiple concrete barriers, and the public streets and thoroughfares of the area occupied by CHOP participants” without the assent of voters and taxpayers.
Finally, the residents and businesses claim that Seattle engaged in a “taking” against them, effectively using eminent domain to deprive them of “constitutionally protected property rights to use and enjoy their properties” without providing just compensation.”
This powerful lawsuit gives the lie to Durkan and Inslee’s claims that CHOP antifa-stan was peaceful, with the potential to become a “Summer of Love.” It also aims to set right a tremendous injustice. When Seattle refused to restore order after CHOP antifa-stan seized property, it did not just give support to a self-declared rebellion, it also failed the citizens who look to the city for the basic law and order that makes everyday life and business possible.
This was a heinous injustice, and these plaintiffs are right to demand recourse in the courts.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.