The self-declared “autonomous zone” takeover currently underway in Seattle by far-left protesters remarkably parallels the seizure of “People’s Park” by Berkeley radicals in 1969.
The issue in Berkeley related to a single block of vacant university-owned land four blocks from campus. In Seattle, the issue is now three blocks of the Capitol Hill neighborhood — both residential and commercial — including the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct facility.
In both cases radical activists used the tactic of seizing property “to develop a territorial imperative.”
People’s Park was launched in a bulletin from “PEOPLE’S PARC (Political and Rap Center)” appearing in the “underground” Berkeley Barb newspaper in April 1969. It read:
“A park will be built this Sunday (April 20) between Dwight and Haste. The land is now owned by the University... On Sunday we will stop this s---… We want the park to be a cultural, political, freak-out and rap center for the Western World. This summer we will not be f----- over by the pigs ‘move-on’ fascism, we will police our own park and not allow its occupation by imperial power… Nobody supervises and the trip belongs to whoever dreams.”
As a result of the “PEOPLE’S PARC” bulletin, people showed up on April 20 at the vacant lot.
A 13-point “Berkeley Liberation Program” was announced, including making the South Campus area a “strategic free territory for revolution.” The “manifesto” called for rent strikes, direct seizure of property, expansion of “our drug culture,” taking up arms, teaching street fighting and making Berkeley a sanctuary for “revolutionary fugitives.”
In Seattle, the spark igniting the “autonomous zone” takeover was the killing of George Floyd on May 25. Rioters sacked Nordstrom’s downtown Seattle flagship store and more than 100 other businesses without police response. They attacked the police precinct in the gentrified Capitol Hill neighborhood east of downtown.
The siege of East Precinct lasted 11 days. Officers in riot gear were subjected to projectiles being hurled at them — including rocks, bricks, frozen water bottles and even improvised explosives. On June 8, the police withdrew and within hours the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone,” CHAZ (now CHOP), was established.
A list of the occupiers’ demands was posted online. They include the abolition of the Seattle Police Department and local court system; the end of jails and prisons; having people “self-police” for crime; and reparations for “victims of police brutality, in a form to be determined.”
The utopian wish list of demands extends to everything — a far-left “kitchen sink.” Free public housing. Free health care. Free college. Rent control and funding for the arts.
The most stunning difference between Berkeley in 1969 and Seattle in 2020 is public officials’ responses to provocations and lawlessness.
In 1969, after fruitless negotiations, UC Berkeley officials erected a fence to reclaim their real estate. A riot ensued. Berkeley ‘s police chief immediately enlisted “mutual aid” from neighboring jurisdictions and counseled sending in the National Guard.
Berkeley Mayor Wallace Johnson concurred. At Johnson’s request, California Gov. Ronald Reagan declared a “state of extreme emergency” and swiftly deployed the California National Guard. Within 18 days, Reagan was able to withdraw all guard troops.
In Seattle, Police Chief Carmen Best said abandoning the East Precinct to lawbreakers was “not my decision.” She wants to retake it “as soon as possible,” reporting 911 response times tripling.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan ordered the officers out. She called “autonomous zone” protests “patriotic” and compared the takeover to a block party — forecasting “a summer of love.”
Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative party member, proposes leaving the “autonomous zone” under “community control” permanently. That would include members of the left-wing John Brown Gun Club roaming the streets brandishing weapons.
Meanwhile, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was widely mocked for pleading ignorance of the takeover days after it happened.
Public officials appear “Clueless in Seattle.”
Jim Hartman is an attorney residing in Genoa. A Berkeley native, Mayor Wallace Johnson was his first client. E-mail address- firstname.lastname@example.org