Andy Ngo, the editor at large for the Canada-based Post Millennial, who was badly beaten by Antifa in June 2019, spent five days undercover in Seattle’s so-called Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), also known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP). It’s a self-declared “autonomous” and cop-free zone.
Ngo joins the podcast to discuss what he saw, the recent shooting in CHOP, the claims that the violence has been from “a right-wing attack,” and more.
We also cover these stories:
- President Donald Trump plans to issue an executive order to protect statues from destruction by radical protesters.
- Trump said that “autonomous zones” like the one declared in Seattle that has seen shootings and at least one death will not be tolerated in Washington, D.C.
- Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced on Monday that police will slowly return to the city’s East Precinct police station. It’s located in Seattle’s Capitol Hill area dubbed CHAZ or CHOP after being taken over by protesters demanding that the police department be defunded.
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Rachel Del Guidice: I’m joined today on the Daily Signal Podcast by Andy Ngo. He’s the editor at large for the Canada-based Post Millennial. And as some of you might remember, he was also beaten by Antifa last June. Andy, it’s great to have you on The Daily Signal Podcast.
Andy Ngo: Thank you so much for inviting me on again.
Del Guidice: Well, it’s great to have you with us. So you just spent five days in Seattle at the so-called Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, also known as Free Capitol Hill. And this is a self-declared autonomous zone and a cop-free zone. So can you set the scene for us and just tell us about what you saw during these five days?
Ngo: I arrived there about 48 hours after the establishment of this so-called autonomous zone that happened on the 8th of June. And for days before the 8th, there have been really violent clashes, or riots, you would call, between police and various left-wing protesters who have been trying to break into the East Precinct.
And Capitol Hill is a very left-wing area. It’s sometimes called the heart of the counterculture movement in Seattle. It’s also filled with many gay and LGBT businesses.
But on the 8th, the police boarded up the facility and abandoned it and left. And sure enough, within moments, those who have been trying to claim it took over not just the area in front of the police precinct, but actually almost the entire neighborhood, six blocks.
And they stole city property like barricades, fencing, and made these barricades where they establish border checkpoints. And very quickly it developed into a very defined space that devolved into anarchy, chaos, violence, and unfortunately, death.
Del Guidice: What were some of the things you witnessed or you saw during your … five days there? If there were a couple things that stood out to you that are something that you have focused on since spending time there undercover, what are those things?
Ngo: When I was there, there was a lot of story pieces that was coming out in print as well as broadcast media … essentially repeating the propaganda points from the mayor, that it was peaceful and block party-like, and a summer of love, something like that.
Now, during the day, that’s partially true. But the other half that wasn’t being told was what was happening at night.
I think what was most shocking to me, in addition to seeing marauding militias going around with armed semiautomatic rifles and other weapons openly, and some of them were distributing it, they had walkie talkies.
The only rule there was that it was no pigs allowed. No cops allowed was their one rule. But they very quickly established their own code of conduct for the denizens of this area.
So in addition to the people roaming with guns, what I found most disturbing were the various booths and tables set up that distributed extremist literature.
The literature not only meant to brainwash an audience, some of it provided instructions for criminality, such as how to create bombs with light bulbs, how to lock up a building to prevent entry from police, how to injure police and kill them.
So this is the stuff that wasn’t being reported by the press, I think because they were never there at night so they didn’t see the criminality that came out.
Unfortunately, within a matter of days, it spilled over into an alleged arson attack, I should say, an alleged rape, and a death over the weekend.
There were back-to-back shootings on Saturday, Sunday. As of this afternoon on Tuesday, there was reportedly another shooting that’s being investigated in a nearby area.
So this is exactly what the people wanted. They wanted the police to stay away. They wanted their own people in power. And that’s what we’re seeing.
Del Guidice: Andy, you had mentioned that during the day, obviously, journalists were there reporting, but at night they weren’t allowed. So since you were there undercover, were you there at night? And if so, what kind of things did you witness?
Ngo: I was there at night. The criminal element that I just described to you happened almost exclusively at night, but there was more.
Fights broke out quite frequently. People were getting drunk there. So they would drink all day and then at night fights would break out between one another. Some people would have a health crisis. Vagrants were congregating in the area. There was drug use, quite explicit, open drug use.
So it was a pure experiment in anarchy and chaos is what I witnessed. And unfortunately, there were still residents who live in this area. I mean, for so long, nobody was really focusing on how those who live and work there are impacted. All the businesses had been boarded up, closed—most of them closed. Some of them still remain open during the day.
But this is a very densely populated area. It’s in some ways kind of like Manhattan, in that many tall buildings and residences are there. And unfortunately, they were stuck in a literal no-go zone.
Del Guidice: Were there any people that you spoke to? What were they saying, or what was the conversation like, people amongst one another?
Ngo: People were very kind to me because they viewed me as one of their own.
I mentioned in my New York Post piece that there were acts of kindness and humanity and community. That was important to mention. That came out particularly during the day, a bit so at night as well. But in the day, people were very quick to offer their comrades and friends and allies food and water, for example. And they would always emphasize that it was free.
The whole area was essentially a very generous welfare state based on those Americans who had donated. There [were] so many donations coming in because all the media coverage presents this … as just this great left-wing project that was a safe space for black people and people of color. So there were Venmos set up, GoFundMes set up, an address to deliver pizza. So there was just an overabundance of “free, free, free.”
So the conversations I was hearing was just that, well, essentially there was no leadership at all. So if media, for example, or a politician wanted to talk to somebody who was representative of the demands of the so-called autonomous zone, there really wouldn’t be one person.
I mean, there were some people who claim to serve that role, but they weren’t viewed as necessarily the legitimate leader to everybody. So there were certain cracks that were showing very quickly within, I guess, social and ideological dynamics within the area.
Del Guidice: For those who aren’t aware of the context, obviously, this CHOP, CHAZ area is a cop-free autonomous zone. But can you talk a little bit and speak to as why this was set up in the first place?
Ngo: The area was set up because police had abandoned the East Precinct. Not out of a decision made by the police chief, Carmen Best, but actually because of a decision made from the mayor’s office. And one of the reasons they left, in addition to political pressure, was that they no longer had the tools to crowd control effectively.
Several weeks ago, the City Council got a restraining order against the Seattle police that removed their legal right to use tear gas, pepper spray, flash bangs. So in the absence of those tools that are effective in dealing with a riot, they had no way to protect their building and they left.
Unfortunately, a U.S. judge has extended that order all the way to September now. So violent protesters are becoming more bold. They protest far beyond the borders of their zone. They’ve been marching almost daily to the West Precinct now, another precinct that’s in another area of downtown. They have been at all the demonstrations out there and vandalizing the building there.
Del Guidice: Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is saying that because of the shootings that have happened, the city has plans to take back this no-police zone. When do you think this might happen? Has there been any conclusion as to when they’re going to take back this part of the city?
Ngo: Well, Jenny Durkan, after the violence and death over the weekend, she’s looking very foolish for her recent comments defending the zone.
And the city didn’t just defend it in talking points, they actually provided material support to the camp through providing upgrades, such as barricades in the streets. … Taxpayers provided that. The city’s continuing to provide trash and rubbish pickup, for example. So they’ve been prolonging the life of this illegal occupation.
But now that it’s potentially politically consequential to the mayor because, well, some of the people in there who were supportive of the zone are realizing this is a hell hole, this is a lawless area that’s violent and dangerous, well, she’s finally saying police will take these precincts at some point.
But, I mean, she and other people on City Council had already voted to take away the tools of crowd control. So I feel for the Seattle police, they’re going to be put in a situation where I’m not sure how they could really clear out thousands of people if they don’t have the tools to do it.
Del Guidice: Well, Andy, you kind of hit on my next question, which was, so you mentioned how there’s still trash pickup that’s happening, do these people have a water source? Is the city providing them with electricity? How are people charging their phones? Other than trash pickup, practically speaking, how is the city continuing or has it continued to enable them?
Ngo: Yeah. So not only does the city provide these barricades and trash pickup, the city also provided porta-potties. So the basic needs of this zone is met.
It’s also a porous border area, so people will leave it and go in and out to charge their phone or to get more food. But they have so much of an abundance of their stuff being donated and given in. Some people actually bring their own generators to produce extra electricity for when they’re camped out in a tent.
So they’ve been aided and supported, not just by the city, but [by] those of the public. And that’s why those in the camp were so controlling over media narratives.
Actually, I didn’t mention this earlier, but it’s important that so many times when there were fights that were breaking out or conflict, they would frequently yell, “Don’t record, don’t put this out. This is what Fox News will use against us.” So they were actively patrolling, preventing the documentation of reality. They wanted the perception to continue that it was a utopia.
Del Guidice: As a follow-up, and as you mentioned earlier about the different shootings that have happened, and then the one person who did pass away, Seattle socialist City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant had said that the shootings have indications that this may have been a right-wing attack. Is this the case? And why do you think she is saying this?
Ngo: She’s saying that because it’s a political advantage to her, because this is her district. This is her district that she is supporting, this anarchy, criminality, lawlessness.
There’s absolutely no evidence that there was any political motivation in the shooting, one of the many shootings that happened over the past four days in this area. And on top of that, none of the witnesses and those who would have information are cooperating with police, by intention.
They actually have all these rules about [how] you can’t talk to cops. If you do, that’s actually one way to get kicked out. So police have been pleading to the public and those who have information to come forward.
Some of the victims that were injured in the shootings and have been released from hospital, they too are also refusing to cooperate with police. So they’re depending on their own source of so-called justice, of vengeance.
There’s a gang element there. I suspect that the shootings are related to gang violence.
Del Guidice: And finally, Andy, what would you say is the goal of these anarchists in creating CHOP? Why are they doing this? And do you think they’re meeting whatever goal they have?
Ngo: It didn’t look like there was a well-thought-out plan when they took over this area. It really appeared like people thinking on the spot, “Oh, let’s steal a very appropriate city property to block police from coming back.” And then it very quickly became this so-called autonomous zone, as they declared it.
And the goals are different for the different ideological factions. I’ll start with the largest ones. I would say the majority of the people there are the mainline Black Lives Matter. And these are the people who have actually issued demands—demands such as defunding the Seattle police, demanding reparations, demanding the literal end of the American criminal justice system.
They have this huge sign that they recently put at one of the border entrances that says, “We refuse to leave until these demands are made.”
So those are the people who, unfortunately, City Council and other politicians are actually negotiating with. They’re negotiating with these extremists.
Then the anarchist communists, the Antifa element, they actually don’t issue demands. They literally are a part of this occupation as a means of just destabilizing the area, destabilizing American society, and showing through force that … when they say “burn it down,” they can sometimes do it literally.
Del Guidice: Andy, thank you so much for joining us on The Daily Signal Podcast and just sharing this firsthand account with us. We appreciate having you.
Ngo: My pleasure. Thank you so much.