Former Seattle Police Chief Says Media Bias Inside CHOP Made Protests Appear Less Violent Than They Were

(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
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Former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said in a new interview the media distorted reality and made the “CHOP” area look peaceful when it wasn’t.

Speaking on Jerry Ratcliff’s “Reducing Crime” podcast, Best explained how the media didn’t cover the “destructive behavior” inside the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) area, leaving Americans to believe things were “peaceful.”

“And the other thing that I found very curious during that time frame was that the destructive behavior, for whatever reason, I’m not sure if there’s a political reason or otherwise, did not get the level of publicity or media attention as … I would read stories about the peaceful protests,” Best said.

“I go, ‘well, part of it was peaceful.’ But I was standing 20 feet away from a hail of rocks. I was looking right at them hail down, feet from me.”

Best then agreed with Ratcliffe’s statement that the media was “gaslighting” Best to believe that the violence and destruction never actually happened.

“Yeah, it’s like, ‘What?’ No. It was just a peaceful protest and the police just unleashed this tear gas and pepper spray. And it just wasn’t true. I mean, we did do it. And we obviously did it for reasons. And maybe in hindsight, maybe some of those times we could have waited longer or did something differently,” Best said.

“Obviously when you look back at things, you have more clarity. But the fact of the matter is it did happen and there were reasons. It wasn’t arbitrary.”

Best then explained why officers were decked out in riot gear.

“We were trying to look as non-threatening as possible, maybe not have the riot shields up. But once we know we’re going to be getting rocks and bottles thrown at us, I have a responsibility as a chief to make sure people have protecting gear. We can’t just leave them out there with soft hat and rocks are being thrown and whatever.”

Best resigned from her position in August after the city council voted to slash police funding which would cause mass layoffs.

“The Council gave us $1.6 million to hire the best, brightest and most diverse. Now they want me to layoff 100 of those officers. I can’t do that.”

CHOP, which was originally designated as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), was the focal point of lawlessness and violence during the summer riots. (RELATED: Before And After Photos: Here’s What Seattle’s ‘CHAZ’ Has Done To The City)

The zone saw three shootings in less then a week in June. In one instance, a man in his 30s was shot and suffered non-life threatening injures. The victim refused to offer information about the circumstances of the shooting. Two individuals were shot days prior in the no-cop zone and another person was shot in a separate incident. One of the shooting victims later died.

Several businesses, workers and residents sued Seattle in June over the local leadership the enabled and allowed the occupation of the area to continue despite the threat to “basic public safety.”

“Rather than seeking to restore order and protect the residents and property owners within CHOP, the City instead chose to actively endorse, enable, and participate in the occupation of CHOP,” the lawsuit said, according to The Seattle Times.

Despite the danger, violence and destruction, Democratic Mayor Jenny Durkan called the encampment a “peaceful expression of our communities collective grief.”

Durkan also referred the area as something “more like a block party atmosphere” rather than an “armed takeover” and said Seattle could see a “summer of love.”

CNN published a piece that described the area as “an art party, a garden, a tourist attraction, a tent city, a presidential fixation and the scene of multiple shootings, two of them fatal.”

NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard told MSNBC anchor Joshua Johnson that the area was “peaceful” after a clash between officers and protesters and that there was a “street festival-type atmosphere,” according to Fox News. A protester heard Hillyard’s comment and corrected him, telling him “learn, right now, that it’s not a street festival. It is not.”