Barricades and street graffiti mark the entrance to what’s known as Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, which protesters have occupied since last Monday.
Last week, the police department pulled officers out of the precinct as tensions between officers and protesters boiled over. The abandoned precinct has been spray painted with a sign that says: “Seattle People Department East Precinct.”
But this weekend the six-block zone in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood resembled more festival than protest.
Thousands packed the area known as CHAZ for Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone or CHOP for the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest. Some meditated or painted. Others listened to speakers.
The zone is stocked with granola bars, water, toilet paper and toothpaste.
“We’re just making sure that there’s no violence or, you know, anything against people of color. That’s why we’re here,” a protester who didn’t want to give his name told CNN.
Jawan Campbell said he felt the gathering in the zone was a sign of unity.
“Trying to get this equality thing going,” Campbell said, “and it’s very peaceful out here.”
Some people in the zone openly carried firearms, which is allowed in the state of Washington.
“It’s only a couple little bullets in this guy right here,” Raz Simone, a protester, told CNN of the gun holstered to his hip. “This is not for the police. I’m an American citizen and my war is not with the police, it’s with the system and the accountability, the lack of accountability. But no, this is just for protection.”
Some worry that the spectacle could detract from the message of Black Lives Matter. Some attendees have also called the CHAZ a “tourist attraction.”
The zone also draws some people who may disagree with the protesters.
On Saturday a conservative Twitter personality showed up with a man holding a flag, causing an angry response from the crowd.
One man who preached a “repent now” message drew criticism – but organizers urged them to ignore him.
Despite small flare-ups between the larger group and those with opposing views, things have been mostly peaceful, according to many of the people who spoke with CNN Sunday.
“This is the most beautiful thing. It’s so hopeful. I’ve been to a lot of festivals around the world and what I see is just something very similar,” artist Adam One said. “Love and giving in a self-organized policing and just a lot of good vibes, rainbows.”
Megan Johnson brought her two sons to see the zone.
“It seems like it’s a great way to demonstrate what’s happening,” Johnson told CNN.
“And this is a very revolutionary time in our history and I think my kids need to see it.”