Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone: Crypto Paradise or Digital Shakedown?

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Cryptocurrencies are reportedly playing a role — for good and ill — in Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, an area established in support of the African-American community by protesters against aggressive policing. 

A project called JamaiCoin claims that six businesses are experimenting with its cryptocurrency as a protest against the US dollar, while separately another business owner claims he’s being extorted for $500 of ‘protection money’ in Bitcoin (BTC).

The CHAZ, AKA Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP), was formed on June 8 by Seattle residents protesting the police murder of George Floyd. The three-block area northeast of downtown Seattle has since become a semi-autonomous community without a police presence.

JamaiCoin (YAH) claimed in a June 17 Tweet that businesses in CHAZ are accepting its token, which it describes as the “main cryptocurrency of the black community”.

However, while the project’s site links through to listings on CoinMarketCap, CoinGecko and CoinCodex, none of these sites have any information on the coin, or state that it is currently trading. Links to Decentralized Exchanges either show no trading or link through to other coins. 

LiveTokenWatch quotes a protester named ‘Rico’ as saying: «If we really want to [say] goodbye to oppression and abuse, we need to say goodbye to the American dollar. Besides, these tokens have zero inflation. I do not know how long I will stay in CHAZ, but it is good to know that my modest amount will keep its value, even if the dollar is tumbling.»

Take a look at LiveTokenWatch’s story yourself to judge, but in the absence of supporting information, the quote sounds a little off. Cointelegraph has contacted JamaiCoin and will update this story if we hear back.

Potential extortion of residents

There are also unconfirmed reports that some CHOP members may be using crypto in a mafia-esque shakedown of local businesses for protection money in the absence of police.

One business owner, named only as Marcus, claims he was approached by six CHOP supporters asking for $500 in cash or Bitcoin (BTC) for “community security and protection”:

“I told them I would prefer to pay in the latter in hope it would buy time. They’re supposedly coming back tomorrow to give me digital wallet details (none of them actually had that info when they showed up […] Even $500 is going to be a hit for us as we only just reopened but I’d rather pay than ask for trouble. I also am hoping they provide some more clarity as to whether this is a one-time or recurring payment and how often payment is expected.”

However, once again it’s impossible to ascertain whether the business owner really exists or is simply part of the ongoing disinformation campaign that seemingly surrounds every aspect of the ongoing protests. Cointelegraph has contacted ‘Marcus’ as well and will let you know if he responds.

Phishing for Bitcoins?

Other unverified Twitter accounts with fewer than 200 members have popped up to request donations in Bitcoin for CHAZ, one providing a wallet address. As of this writing, no one has sent any BTC to the address, according to blockchain data. 

It’s not uncommon for unscrupulous individuals to take advantage of public support on hot topic issues. Cointelegraph reported on June 4 that someone had launched a personalized token of George Floyd, seemingly feeding on the outrage building in the U.S. to make a quick cash grab.

Pushing crypto into CHAZ

One crypto user Cointelegraph can say for certain is real is The Keiser Report’s Max Keiser who addressed CHAZ inhabitants directly on Twitter on June 13. The Bitcoin bull suggested BTC as an alternative currency for the zone: