I am glad to see that autonomous zones are popping up all over, especially in light of yet another killing of a black man by police, this time in Atlanta. Autonomous zones are important because they are a real world demonstration of anarchist principles in action.
People have this weird idea about anarchy, that it is chaos and the destruction of structure. This is false. Anarchy is still a way of organizing a community, it simply uses a framework for doing so which is chaos radically different than that which has historically been used by state systems. Underlying all state systems, whether a monarchy, democracy, or dictatorship, is the assumption that people are foolish and inherently bad. They have to be controlled and protected from themselves. This is why state systems have laws, they are trying to control the inherent evil of the human species.
On the other hand, anarchy assumes that there are good people and clueless people and only very very rarely people who intentionally like to cause harm. This means, on the whole, we can trust people to be experts of their own lives and make their own choices.
This does not mean they get to choose to do “whatever they want.” There is a social expectation that the choices will be made within the context of caring for themselves and their community. This is where anarchy gets its “lawless” reputation. Instead of codified laws, the breaking of which is considered harm to the state, anarchy encourages the natural tendency to connect and avoided those things which damage our collective connections. When connections are broken it is considered harm to the people one’s actions impact. These norms are developed through praxis, the taking of one’s values and ethics and putting them into daily collective practice. When harm occurs it is considered damage to the relationships between people to be repaired through transformative collective action.
Anarchy, when viewed through the lens of the state is seen as the removal of systems the state deems necessary to control the evil nature of people. Furthermore, the lack of hierarchy in anarchy scares anyone who craves power (ie anyone in power).
Anarchy, on the other hand, sees state systems as hierarchical impositions designed to allow one group of people benefit at the cost of another group of people (or several groups of people). This requires people to be alienated from each other because if they were not alienated, they would not be able to take the actions needed to maintain the artificial separation between oppressor and oppressed. This process destroys the humanity of everyone involved and is specifically harmful to those whom are being oppressed.
These two points of view have what is known as “irreconcilable differences.” This is why anarchists feel it is so important to create spaces of community, care, interdependence, and resilience of all shapes and sizes ranging from as big as autonomous zones to as small as a couple of people carving out a sliver of community in the cracks between oppressions. These spaces form a container for self transformation, where we can dismantle internalized oppression and toxic scripts, where we can rest and recharge, where we can sit in the fire of our pain and heal. It is from and thanks to these spaces that we are able to venture out and do the work.
I hope this helps you to understand why spaces like the CHOP/CHAZ are so important.