Capital Hill Autonomous Zone

America’s founding fathers considered, and then rejected, the ideology that drove the French Revolution. The reign of terror that filled the streets of Paris with blood never happened in America.

For this reason, the barricades that wall off the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) in Seattle, Washington, are an ominous sign. Even while images of America’s founding fathers are being defaced, beheaded and destroyed, the competing images of barricades and rioters with rifles are being erected before our eyes.

For years, the radical left has been denouncing border walls and immigration enforcement. How ironic that their first governmental act in the fiefdom of the autonomous zone was to build a wall, and their second act was to put armed border agents in place to check IDs and limit access from outsiders.

Next, the same people who called for mail-in voting went to occupy city hall and disenfranchise millions of voters. Mayor Jenny Durkan was duly elected by free citizens of Seattle, but an oligarchy of armed insurrectionists demanded that she resign or meet their list of demands.

The instinctive impulse among leftists is to tax corporations and redistribute the money to political dependents. So, no one was surprised at reports of intimidation squads going from business to business gathering taxes to replace the food supplies that were quickly depleted by giveaways.

Seattle’s police chief admitted that they had received no formal complaints of such intimidation squads. I have no reason to dispute that. If you were being intimidated, would you risk a formal complaint to the very police force that fled the area and left your business unprotected?

Here’s the way that the leftist Seattle Times described the scene. “A mix of block party, street protest and unsanctioned graffiti gallery, the area around the East Precinct has remained largely peaceful since police left, though a few people had been spotted carrying long rifles.”

How bucolic that the only firearms in sight are “long rifles.” Assault weapons would be so much scarier. “Unsanctioned graffiti gallery” is a euphemism to describe defaced public buildings and infrastructure throughout the six-block territory of the zone. “Largely peaceful” is a nice turn of phrase. As long as nobody publicly opposes the occupiers, it will remain that way.

The autonomous zone is centered around the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct. That empty building is its defining characteristic. On June 8, after several continuous days of protest, the crowd began to throw bricks, bottles and fireworks at the men and women who were there to protect and serve. Many were hospitalized. When the mob threatened to burn down the precinct headquarters, the city decided to withdraw all law enforcement officers from the area.

Thriving communities are the product of building, not tearing down. For families to live together in peace and harmony, hundreds of institutions and millions of moving parts need to be painstakingly and lovingly put into place. It is possible for a community to survive the sudden collapse of an important institution. But that is an injury it must work to heal. It cannot be the constituting principle of the community.

By emptying the East Precinct, the CHAZ did not rid itself of the police, it simply established a new, untrained and ununiformed police department. In so doing, they also cut themselves off from the entire network of the city of Seattle. Water, electricity, sewer, street repair, bus routes — all are affected. Barricades now stand between them and the garbage trucks that keep streets clean. Commerce is squelched as shops and grocery stores are denied deliveries.

Of course, the men manning the barricades will be quick to assure us that all these vehicles of community and commerce will be allowed to enter the zone. That satisfies one side of the transaction. But have they checked with the utility companies and the delivery trucks to see if they are willing to risk equipment and personnel in an area controlled by an untested and unlawful police force?

The buildings and businesses that support a community are only made possible by relationships forged over decades. No father or mother wants to raise children in a community where neighbors corrupt their children. No shop owner wants to do business in a community where his shop may be picked clean at the whim of a mob.  No police officer will be willing to risk life and limb to protect and serve neighbors and shop owners if he is targeted by revolutionaries and abandoned by city government.

For these reasons’ education, not law enforcement, remains the backbone of every community. Education is not simply the imparting of a body of knowledge. Properly speaking, it is the raising of good citizens. Technological know-how and the ability to spout the latest politically correct mantra are worthless in themselves.

Unless children are raised up to be virtuous, community is not possible. When termites eat away at the foundations of education and virtue, a community will survive for a while. Virtuous habits and edifices of brick and stone may persist for some years after true virtues are no longer taught. But there will, inevitably, be a tipping point at which the whole community collapses in chaos.

The occupiers of Seattle are staring into this abyss today. They seem, instinctively, to know the value of education. The two most visible activities of the occupiers are the building of “guerilla gardens,” and as one reporter described, “teach-in tables that seem to grow exponentially — on harm reduction, transformative justice, community safety.”

Whether hasty indoctrination into social justice theory can replace the virtue that built Seattle is doubtful. But at least someone is recognizing the truth that community starts by inculcating the virtues.

That brings us to Wyoming. Assaults on the education of our population have not only happened in liberal cities. Much damage has been done across the fruited plains and in our own state as well. Institutions, buildings and businesses built by past generations may survive by pure inertia. But if Wyoming is not constantly working to renew freedom’s foundations, they will not survive for long.

Wyoming is known for its rugged individualism. Steeped in this ethos, it is easy to overlook the fact that individuals act most effectively when they act cooperatively. Hard work and self-sufficiency are the necessary foundation of freedom. But unless free citizens are working together to build communities, they will be overwhelmed by the mob when the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone comes to Casper.

Given that reality, now is the time to build. Now is the time for fathers and mothers, hardworking neighbors and friends to get involved in repairing the foundations of a civilization that has been under assault.

Seattle is no joke. It is a warning shot that should put every American citizen on alert. President Ronald Reagan famously said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

Wyoming’s people know this instinctively and work hard to raise their own children with the virtues that support freedom. What they must learn from events in Seattle is that the transmission of freedom to the next generation is a cooperative endeavor. It cannot be done alone and in isolation.

It involves not only the home, but the school; not only the school, but the library; not only the library, but Main Street. Lawyers, doctors, ranchers, rough necks, miners, mothers, teachers and preachers all have a unique and vital contribution to make in the education of a free society. It’s a time for building.

Jonathan Lange is an LCMS pastor in Evanston and Kemmerer and serves the Wyoming Pastors Network. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow his blog at