Although I grew up in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington Journalism School, I don't recognize my old hometown these days, especially after a ragtag group of anarchists "captured" a central section of the Emerald City during the chaotic violence that accompanied peaceful George Floyd protests earlier this month.
My old friends and family members can't believe what's happening in downtown Seattle as "progressive" Mayor Jenny Durkan and city officials refuse to take action against vigilantes who continue to occupy much of Capitol Hill, a mixed business/residential neighborhood not far from the city's landmark Space Needle. "Seattle is fine," Durkan tweeted after President Trump threatened federal intervention to restore order on Capitol Hill. "Don't be so afraid of democracy," she added.
This is democracy? I don't think so because, as well-known Republican strategist Karl Rove asked in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, "Who in Seattle voted to cede their neighborhood to armed vigilantes?" No one, that's who.
"Early in June, while Seattle was rocked by protests that often turned ugly," Rove wrote, "Ms. Durkan canceled curfew, suspended the use of tear gas, drew back the National Guard and pledged no penalties for those arrested" for committing crimes during a protest that turned violent. On June 8 the mayor ordered police to evacuate their precinct station house in the heart of the Capitol Hill neighborhood , effectively delivering a six-block area to rampaging anarchists and lawbreakers. Following Durkan's "peaceful guidelines," police officers stood by and watched as looters and rioters occupied their station house.
On June 9 an unsigned manifesto appeared online urging city officials to defund the police department, de-criminalize crime and shut down the courts. A speaker at a rally demanded that white people in attendance "give $10 to an African-American person from the 'autonomous zone.'" Reparations, I suppose. That's how the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone was born, and it continues today as I write.
According to Rove, the vigilantes "have created their own security force led by bejeweled rapper Raz Simone whose favorite instrument is an AK-47 with its distinctive curved magazine." "They're treating me like I'm the f*** mayor," Simone declared, proudly describing himself as a benevolent "warlord." This isn't happening in the strife-torn Middle East, my dear readers, it's happening right here in a major American city. And this is what will occur throughout the nation if honest, law-abiding, taxpaying (many of the demonstrators don't pay taxes) citizens allow pathetically weak leaders to defund the police and establish "citizens committees" to maintain law and order.
Asked on CNN last week how long occupiers would remain in control of a central section of her city, Durkan replied: "I don't know. We could have the Summer of Love." Good luck with that. Rove saw the chaotic situation differently. "Madame Mayor is delusional," he wrote. "The autonomous zone doesn't resemble a New England townhall meeting so much as 'Lord of the Flies,' which ended badly," he wrote.
My heart aches for my old hometown and I worry about Seattle friends and family members, including my daughter and 15-year-old twin grandsons. Fortunately, however, they live in the suburbs and not in downtown Seattle.
Wall Street Journal Deputy Editorial Page Editor Dan Henninger addressed the same issue, writing that people are moving out of Seattle and other major cities because of "the social, moral and political turbulence of this country's large urban areas." Seattle's ugly Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone is a prime example of what's happening around the country.
Only the voters can save our cities. Keep that in mind as you go to the polls in November.
Guy W. Farmer, a Seattle native, is the Appeal's senior political columnist.