is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23
Would-be revolutionaries across the US are looking to Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone for cues on what’s next. But its demands are larded with quixotic, unworkable “solutions” that distract from planning for lasting change.
The commune’s apparent list of demands, published on Tuesday after anti-police-brutality protesters took over a six-block area of downtown Seattle, veers from the common-sensical, past the daring and the deep to the absurd with little warning. Posted to Medium, it has been promoted on social media by a slate of Seattle lefties, activist blue-checks, and rubbernecking conservatives. None has yet questioned its authenticity.
Divided into four sections – the justice system, economic demands, “health and human services,” and education – the list overshadows its best calls for reform with some silly and downright dangerous suggestions.
There’s plenty to support in its overhaul of the justice system, for example. Ordering Seattle police officers to keep body cameras active at all times, and ensuring this footage is accessible to the public, is an excellent idea, as is releasing the names of officers involved in police brutality into the public record and ending “prosecutorial immunity” for police. The tendency for police forces, and the justice systems that enable them in an unhealthy symbiosis, to close ranks around the ‘bad apples’ in their midst gives rise to the majority of the abuses committed within those systems.
But these logical propositions are followed up by a demand for “the abolition of imprisonment, generally speaking.” Sure, get rid of “youth prisons and privately owned, for-profit prisons,” but ditching the concept of imprisonment as punishment for crime entirely? They also demand the total “abolition” of the Seattle Police Department, to be replaced with “localized anti-crime systems” developed by “the people,” and the replacement of the existing criminal justice system with “restorative/transformative accountability programs.” That’s all well and good for low-level crime, but what about murder? Or rape?
Similarly, the group’s call to release and expunge the record of anyone serving time solely for marijuana-related convictions is an easy move to support, given that Washington legalized the drug nearly a decade ago. Releasing anyone in jail solely for “resisting arrest” also has merit, given how frequently that charge is abused in Kafkaesque proceedings where no other crime can be proven. But the Zoners run aground on their own virtue when they “demand a retrial of all People in Color [sic] currently serving a prison sentence for violent crime, by a jury of their peers in their community.” Such a measure not only fans the flames of racial resentment but, if implemented – given that the protesters claim to want a world with no police and no prisons – could make them a target for outside predators, including those who’d like to see their experiment fail.
That same current of racial divisiveness surfaces throughout the demands. The Zoners demand Seattle’s medical facilities “employ black doctors and nurses specifically to help care for black patients” – as if re-segregating the medical profession will help Seattle transcend racism. The people of Seattle are ordered to “seek out and proudly support Black-owned businesses,” as if the average resident is even aware of the race of the individual who owns their local grocery store or bar. Fetishizing racial differences in order to engage in performative acts of “positive discrimination” is no more ‘progressive’ than refusing to patronize black-owned businesses – and attempting to scold one’s fellow Seattlers into taking their racial consciousness shopping with them is alienating potential allies.
There are plenty of other good ideas in the list: remove the financial hurdles that keep working-class people from running for political office; end the “school-to-prison pipeline” by getting cops out of schools and reinvesting that money into education; reverse the gentrification process that is gradually pushing the poor out of the city. But they’re overshadowed by the ridiculous virtue-signaling, and any activist familiar with the current media climate knows all the good-sense reforms in the world don’t matter if the establishment can write you off as a privileged, head-in-the-clouds snowflake cosplaying at revolution.
A critical phase in any revolution is the immediate aftermath of the toppling of the power structure. The Seattle Autonomous Zone could be a role model for other cities looking to rethink their relationships with power. Or it could exemplify the kind of self-defeating behavior that doomed the Occupy movement, starting with a pathological insistence on “consensus” decision-making and fetishizing “diversity” in a way that pits people against one another when unity is direly needed.
All eyes are on Seattle right now. The Autonomous Zone has a chance to show the rest of the country, if not the world, what’s possible when a small group pries the police state’s knee off their neck. Or it could go down in history as just another punchline – “Silly radicals! Revolutions are for adults!”