Riot police respond after peaceful protest turns violent, destructive

SALT LAKE CITY, May 30, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert called in the National Guard and police from multiple northern Utah law enforcement agencies were called to downtown Salt Lake City and the state Capitol after a peaceful protest turned violent Saturday afternoon.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall also declared a curfew for Salt Lake City, to last from 8 p.m. Saturday until Monday morning. Several protesters on the scene told reporters they had no intention of leaving.

The protest was peaceful until shortly after 3 p.m., when protesters near the Salt Lake City Police Department crowded around a patrol car, flipped it, sprayed paint on it, bashed out the windows, and set it ablaze.

As many protesters left the downtown area for the state Capitol, a few remained downtown to loot a 7-Eleven. Several stores at the City Creek mall also were looted.

At the Capitol, more than two dozen Utah Highway Patrol troopers and other first responders stood peacefully around the steps, most with their hands clasped in front of them. Protesters used spray paint to vandalize the grounds, and yelled at the officers.

At about 5:20 p.m., a second car was destroyed after a man apparently got out of it, then pointed a bow and arrow at the crowd. Bystanders began to beat the man, who was rescued by police in riot gear.

A man’s car was burned by protesters after he said he yelled “All lives matter” into the crowd. Photo: Gephardt Daily/Patrick Benedict

The man later told reporters he had shouted out his car window, “All lives matter,” and was surprised it angered protesters enough that they started beating him as he tried to escape with his only available weapon, the bow and arrow.

The event began quietly in the late morning, and was intended to draw attention to the death of Minnesota man George Floyd, who died Monday after a police officer used his knee to force his neck into the roadway for an extended period of time.

Floyd told the officer he was in pain, he begged for air, and then he said the police were going to kill him. Onlookers recorded video and begged the officer to let Floyd breathe. Floyd died shortly afterward at a hospital.

The Salt Lake City protest began calmly, with people in cars chanting Floyd’s name, “Black lives matter” or “I can’t breathe.” Police stayed back, and mostly out of sight, allowing people to express their feelings.

By 7:15 p.m., the protest bore no resemblance to the event that started about eight hours earlier. Protesters stood in a wall, feet from a line of officers in riot gear, shield to shield, as the minutes passed before the curfew. Armored vehicles idled nearby.

Law enforcement officers respond to the scene of a protest in Salt Lake City on Saturday, May 30, 2020. Photo: Gephardt Daily/Patrick Benedict

At 7:33 p.m., police began to advance after a metal object, reportedly a trash can, was thrown at them. A protester jumped on an officer, and multiple other officers jumped on the young man, then picked him up and led him away, hands secured behind his back.

The 8 p.m. curfew deadline came and went without the crowd clearing out. More officers arrived to support the hundreds who had arrived earlier from dozens of agencies in northern Utah. Among them were officers from Ogden, which lost a team member, Officer Nate Lyday, just two days earlier when he was fatally shot while responding to a domestic violence call.

By 8:30 p.m., dusk was approaching and the standoff continued. The number of officers appeared to be increasing.

At 9 p.m., night had fallen and a jail transport bus had arrived at the scene. A few minutes later, the police line pushed forward, forcing the protesters to retreat. A few struggled to hold their ground, but many began to disperse.

By 9:30 p.m., the police line had advanced by a block, forcing protesters to retreat the same distance. Police used bullhorns to state the protest was illegal, and people needed to go on. With protester ranks thinning, the officers outnumbered them by about two to one.

By 10:10 p.m., officers began arresting protesters who had not dispersed, and started putting them onto jail buses for transport and processing, including the filing of charges.

Gephardt Daily will have more information on this story as it develops.

Below, see more photos of the action. And below the photo gallery, see video shared with Gephardt Daily by Utah resident Adam Cloud, who spent about an hour Saturday afternoon walking through the crowd and capturing the mood of the protesters.

Posted by Adam Cloud on Saturday, May 30, 2020

1 COMMENT

  1. Hi. You reported here that several stores in City Creek Mall were looted, but other than a mention of the Apple Store on Reddit, I have not seen it reported anywhere else. On the other hand, I have seen several mentions of this looting on social media.

    Can you verify, please? Thanks very much.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here