Establishing an autonomous zone and toppling statues in Washington, D.C., apparently isn’t quite as easy as it is in Washington state.
On Monday, a protester in the area north of Lafayette Square — close to the White House and the locus of recent protests — dubbed the area “BHAZ,” for “Black House Autonomous Zone,” by spray-painting the moniker on the columns of St. John’s Episcopal Church, according to The Washington Post.
The name was an obvious homage to the “CHAZ,” or the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” in Seattle. That’s known as “CHOP” now — “Capitol Hill Organized Protest,” one of those “mostly peaceful” places where protesters have taken over, police have been absent and so has the rule of law.
BHAZ — Black House Autonomous Zone — has been spray painted on the columns of the historic St. John’s church outside the White House. pic.twitter.com/or2C2myVSX
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) June 23, 2020
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan called CHAZ/CHOP something “like a block party.” If your block party includes two shootings, sure. Durkan has said that police will be returning to an abandoned precinct in the area in the “near future” and pledged to dismantle the zone.
The BHAZ, meanwhile, exists alongside Black Lives Matter Plaza, another protest area designated by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, mostly for the purposes of annoying the president.
It also exists adjacent to Lafayette Square, where a bronze statue of former President Andrew Jackson stands. Jackson, of course, was the man who forced tens of thousands of Native Americans to walk the Trail of Tears through the Indian Removal Act. He also owned slaves.
In a climate where Thomas Jefferson and Winston Churchill are viewed as legitimate targets for statue-toppling, Jackson was definitely on the list of problematic politicians who had to go. At roughly 8 p.m. on Monday, rioters decided it was time to go to town on Old Hickory:
#NewsAlert: Soon another statue is going to be taken down in the #US, the andrew jackson statue, in front of the #whitehouse and a mile away from the Black house Autonomous zone #BHAZ, while police stands down again. pic.twitter.com/5xdNAhTg3e
— Sotiri Dimpinoudis (@Sotiridi1) June 23, 2020
Unlike in San Francisco — where protesters were able to take down three statues over the weekend, including one of Union general and former President Ulysses S. Grant, who crushed the Confederacy — police precluded them from toppling the monument to Jackson.
BREAKING: Metropolitan Police and US Park Police move demonstrators back from Lafayette Square Park.
Two separate protesters tell me the groups want to tear down the Andrew Jackson statue near the White House. @NBCNews @MSNbc @nbcwashington pic.twitter.com/topGgjCjJi
— Shomari Stone (@shomaristone) June 23, 2020
— holly (@hollySeaDC) June 23, 2020
In a tweet, President Donald Trump condemned the would-be statue-topplers in Lafayette Square.
“Numerous people arrested in D.C. for the disgraceful vandalism, in Lafayette Park, of the magnificent Statue of Andrew Jackson, in addition to the exterior defacing of St. John’s Church across the street,” Trump tweeted. “10 years in prison under the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act. Beware!”
Numerous people arrested in D.C. for the disgraceful vandalism, in Lafayette Park, of the magnificent Statue of Andrew Jackson, in addition to the exterior defacing of St. John’s Church across the street. 10 years in prison under the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act. Beware!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 23, 2020
Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, meanwhile, warned protesters that D.C. would not turn into Seattle.
“Let me be clear: we will not bow to anarchists. Law and order will prevail, and justice will be served,” he tweeted.
I just left Lafayette Square where another so called “peaceful protest” led to destruction tonight. Let me be clear: we will not bow to anarchists. Law and order will prevail, and justice will be served.
— Secretary David Bernhardt (@SecBernhardt) June 23, 2020
As for Black Lives Matter Plaza, the protest area decreed by Mayor Bowser — well, Washington cops had to clear tents from protesters who had encamped there, “leading to a tense confrontation,” according to CNN’s Allie Malloy.
The tall fencing around Lafayette Square is going back up tonight, a law enforcement source tells me.
Law enforcement abruptly cleared streets at the BLM Plaza today removing several tents in which protesters were encamped- leading to a tense confrontation.
— Allie Malloy (@AlliemalCNN) June 23, 2020
This didn’t go over so well with leftists:
Performative politics is renaming a plaza to BLM Plaza and then using cops to keep Black people out of it pic.twitter.com/i01g3P7YCZ
— Chad Loder (@chadloder) June 23, 2020
“We are always concerned when we have people staying in tents outside — it is not safe,” D.C. Deputy Mayor Wayne Turnage said in a statement, expressing worries about the protesters’ exposure to traffic on the capital’s H Street.
“It is also a serious concern if they are staying in tents in the middle of the road. Therefore, today, we deployed our interagency team to talk with the people staying on H Street and, eventually, to remove the tents.”
Pepper spray was used to move back some of the more intransigent protesters. According to The Post, more than 100 police officers and a trash truck were used to clear the would-be autonomous zone.
One of the reasons Bowser’s police force is a bit more willing to get involved, despite her moment in the resistance spotlight, is the fact that the president has threatened to take matters into his own hands.
“There will never be an “Autonomous Zone” in Washington, D.C., as long as I’m your President,” Trump tweeted Tuesday. “If they try they will be met with serious force!”
There will never be an “Autonomous Zone” in Washington, D.C., as long as I’m your President. If they try they will be met with serious force!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 23, 2020
This being Twitter in 2020, the president’s tweet was covered up with a warning saying it “violated the Twitter Rules about abusive behavior.”
Whatever Twitter wants to say about the tweet’s abusiveness, the message is clear: There’s going to be no “Black House Autonomous Zone” or a real Black Lives Matter Plaza, at least not on the scale of CHAZ/CHOP. The 1973 Home Rule Act gives the president “emergency control” of the District of Columbia police for “federal purposes” for up to 48 hours or 30 days if approved by Congress.
While that 30 days clearly isn’t going to happen, the 48 hours would be enough to tackle any sort of autonomous zone.
And let’s be clear — that’s a good thing. Seattle is an object lesson in how anarchy can’t even be stable on a small scale. We don’t need that blocks from the White House, no matter what your thoughts on the president may be. This is perfectly within the purview of the commander in chief, given the exigencies of the moment.
As for the toppling of statues, the celebration of lawlessness by the left is rather telling. It’s a tacit admission that a cultural conversation about the appropriateness of a statue of Andrew Jackson wouldn’t end with the statue’s removal. The same can be said for Ulysses S. Grant or any number of the targets of the mob. However, if they’re allowed free reign, why not preclude the discussion from happening in the first place by just tearing down the statue?
Unfortunately for them, this logic doesn’t pair that well with police who enforce the law.
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