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Seattle rapper denies he's 'terrorist warlord,' insists 'autonomous zone' has been 'peaceful and nothing else.' But videos seem to tell different story.

Police also say they've heard reports of extortion and intimidation and armed protesters manning checkpoints

Protester Raz Simone (Image source: KIRO-TV video screenshot)

A rapper named Raz Simone has emerged as a leader within Seattle's so-called "autonomous zone," which George Floyd protesters created this week as police abandoned the area in the hopes of de-escalating tensions between demonstrators and law enforcement.

What are the details?

Simone was described in the City Journal as having an AK-47 slung from his shoulder "and a pistol attached to his hip" and screaming "This is war!" into a megaphone and ordering "armed paramilitaries to guard the barricades in shifts." The outlet added that Simone was "filmed allegedly assaulting multiple protestors who disobeyed his orders, informing them that he was the 'police' now, sparking fears that he was becoming the de facto warlord of the autonomous zone."

Simone denied the "warlord" allegation.

But one video seems to tell a different story about the zone's peace and tranquility.

The clip shows Simone apparently "policing in the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" without "oversight and accountability. This was an attempt at de-escalation for spraying paint onto a building which resulted in an alleged assault."

As Simone is shown attempting to stop the man from spraying graffiti on the building, another man apparently with Simone is heard saying, "We are the police of this community now. We are the leaders of this community now."

A woman is heard telling the graffiti artist "you're being disrespectful."

Image source: Twitter video screenshot

Simone then approaches the spray painter who responds by saying, "Don't touch me! Get your f***in' hands off me!" Seconds later Simone is seen getting in the man's face.

Image source: Twitter video screenshot

Then an apparent scuffle ensues:

In response to the video, Simone tweeted that the incident "actually went beautifully, and we all hugged it out and spoke with his dad. His dad now wants me to mentor him. It was great black dialogue and men apologizing to each other, abandoning pride. We all hugged each other, cried it out, and it was beautiful."

A second video shows Simone confronting another man who's streaming video on the street, apparently days before the "autonomous zone" was established. An angry Simone asks the man, 'Why you playin' dumb? I don't like that s**t." He also asks, "Why you creatin' dissension?" and "I'm a peaceful man. Why you doin' that?"

It isn't clear what the issue was, but before the video ends Simone appears to attack the man:

Content warning: Language:

Raz Simone youtu.be

But in a video posted Sunday — the day before the "autonomous zone" went up — Simone appeared in a video with Omari Salisbury who said he and Simone "discussed our issues as men last night" and telling viewers "don't get distracted."

Another altercation and another kiss-and-make-up aftermath. Indeed, Salisbury concludes, "Stay on message."

'Armed protesters'

KIRO-TV reported that armed protesters said they are protecting the East Precinct police building after Seattle police officers boarded it up and left the protest area Monday.

Indeed, the station said video from Simone on Facebook shows some of those armed protesters:

Image source: KIRO-TV video screenshot

"We're all trying to protect the building," Simone said, according to KIRO.

Image source: KIRO-TV video screenshot

Another protester, Maurice Cola, told the station "we also have people who are lawfully capable of having their weaponry."

Simone told KIRO in an interview that "people are afraid of the police. Not just the guns and throwing bombs and stuff like that. People are afraid of police — they're above the law. They don't have any accountability. Once they have the badge on there, they can do anything and no one stops it."

Image source: KIRO-TV video screenshot

The precinct's sign now shows the word "police" spray-painted over and replaced with the word "people."

"They want the streets open for peaceful marches, and we're going to facilitate that opportunity for them," Police Chief Carmen Best said Monday, according to the station.

How's that working out so far?

While Washington is an open-carry state, police told KOMO-TV there are limits.

"There is no legal right for those arms to be used to intimidate community members," Assistant Chief Deanna Nollette told the station during a briefing outside of police department headquarters.

Nollette added to KOMO that "we have heard anecdotally reports of citizens and businesses being asked to pay a fee to operate within this area" and that such an act is "extortion."

She also told the station in a separate story that police are receiving reports of armed people manning checkpoints in the autonomous zone — and that operating a citizen checkpoint on a public street is illegal.

KOMO said Simone snickered when he heard the allegations: "Definitely no extortion, definitely nothing of that. We've invited people to come in."

Inside the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone youtu.be

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