In a battle for control of six blocks in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood that has caught the attention of even President Trump, hip-hop artist Raz Simone has emerged as a leading figure of Black Lives Matter and radical leftist activists who say they are now in charge in the enclave.
Mr. Simone’s Twitter feed and Facebook page feature him brandishing an AK-47 in the self-declared “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone,” which grew out of the nationwide anti-police protest over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
President Trump has tweeted repeatedly about the need to restore law and civil control to the area, which occupiers have rechristened as “CHAZ,” criticizing by name Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan for failing to reclaim an area that includes a major police precinct office.
Mr. Trump told a crowd on a visit to Dallas Thursday: “We have to have law and order. Look at Seattle — they took over a city, a big chunk of it. It couldn’t happen here, I don’t think, is the state of Texas.”
Mr. Simone tweeted back that the president “really put a hit on my head.”
“I’m not a Terrorist Warlord,” he wrote online. “Quit spreading that false narrative. The world has NEVER been ready for a strong black man. We have been peaceful and nothing else. If I die don’t let it be in vain.”
He has been seen atop the barricades surrounding the abandoned Seattle Police Department precinct building, a precinct that has been rebranded with spray paint as the “Seattle People’s Department East Precinct.”
In a video Tweet, Mr. Simone addresses a large crowd and asks people who are armed to man the zone’s barricades.
Mr. Simone, who often is seen wearing a sidearm on his hip and an AK-47 slung across his shoulder, declares that he is “legally carrying.”
“And with their paperwork, I’ve got mine in my pocket,” he says. “Make some noise, no fear, no fear, no fear!”
A Seattle police detective told The Washington Times that the department is aware of the videos. But Mr. Simone is not a person of interest in a police investigation and there have been no complaints filed of disturbances linked to him. Washington state also has an open-carry gun law for those with permits.
The image that the neighborhood is a “no-go zone” for the cops is false and thus far no one has been injured, said the detective.
But various Twitter accounts have portrayed Mr. Simone as a sort of warlord in the Seattle neighborhood, replacing the police and city authorities. Several social media posts have accused him of assaulting people.
“I hope he distances himself from the movement,” Chaotic NTRL tweeted in a widely shared chain. “The movement is sure trying to distance itself from him, from what I’ve seen.”
Not all social media posts about him are negative. Several people have come to Mr. Simone’s defense, accusing people of misrepresenting his intent and his legitimate role in the city’s protests against racism and police abuses.
Mr. Simone’s real name is Solomon Samuel Simone and he is 30 years old.