WASHINGTON: An India-born software engineer-turned-socialist is at the center of the “Black Lives Matter” protests in Seattle, where a six-block enclave dubbed the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) has attracted President Trump’s ire for turning into a no-go area for the police.
Kshama Sawant, the first socialist to be elected to the Seattle City Council in a century and a fierce Bernie Sanders supporter, is leading protesters in CHAZ, urging them to hold out on giving back the precinct to cops or allowing officers inside the barricaded region that has virtually become a separatist enclave.
“Our movement needs to urgently ensure East Precinct is not handed back to police, but is turned over permanently into community control. My office is bringing legislation to convert East Precinct into a community center for restorative justice,” Sawant said on Friday even as pictures surfaced of armed vigilantes patrolling the area.
The pictures have agitated Trump, who has called the CHAZ protesters “domestic terrorists” and warned the Democratic state’s governor and city mayor to restore control over the area – or he will send in troops to clear out the place.
Meanwhile, right wing Trump-supporting extremists, who have dubbed CHAZ an anarchist-separatist commune and have called Kshama Sawant a “champagne socialist,” have threatened to “reconquer” the area.
Sawant, 46, has made news across the country over the last several years for her firebrand socialist politics that includes fighting for a $15 minimum wage and opposing US policies in the middle-east.
Sawant, whose family hails from Pune and Bangalore, earned an engineering degree in Mumbai in 1994 and came to the US for higher studies, even working as a software engineer for a while. She says she switched to an Economics PhD program in North Carolina to find answers to political questions that she says haunted her from her days in India.
“I was always a socialist at heart,” she explained in an interview to the Times of India in 2013. “But academia in the US is not focused on solutions. It only provides an intellectual justification of capitalism system….you are told unions are bad and poor people are poor because they are lazy.”