SALT LAKE CITY, May 31, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — A total of 21 police officers were injured, one seriously, and 41 people were arrested after a peaceful protest turned violent in downtown Salt Lake City Saturday.
A tweet from Salt Lake City Police Department Sunday morning said: “21 officers injured, one seriously. 41 arrested; most for failure to disperse, a few for assault on a police officer, and some for curfew. We are currently working to identify other individuals that we will be screening charges against for crimes of vandalism, assault, and theft.”
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall has declared a curfew for Salt Lake City, to last from 8 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Monday morning.
Residents were sent the following public safety alert on their phones: “Salt Lake City curfew effective until June 1 at 6 a.m. within Salt Lake City limits. People may not be on a public street or in any public place. Exceptions; police, fire, medical personnel, media, people traveling directly to and from work, traveling to and from the airport, seeking medical care, fleeing dangerous circumstances, or those experiencing homelessness.”
Businesses will not be closed, and Mendenhall added in a tweet that attending church services and patronizing private businesses are also exemptions.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert tweeted at 11 p.m. Saturday: “Unless you are defined as an essential person, please steer clear of the downtown area through the remainder of the weekend.
“We were deeply saddened to see the defacement of our beautiful Capitol building by this weekend’s protesters. We are heartened by the many individuals wanting to help clean its stone walls and grounds.
“Due to the historic and delicate nature of the building, and the ongoing curfew (expires on Monday at 6 a.m.), we are going to rely on professionals from the state of Utah to clean and restore the exterior walls and surfaces.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Salt Lake City Mayor Jenny Wilson issued the following statement Sunday morning:
Last evening was a very difficult time for our community. I share the deep anger felt for the loss of George Floyd’s life in a deliberate act of violence. I am saddened that we continue to see instances where crime is committed by law enforcement at the expense of people of color. I am proud that Salt Lake City’s officers and those who assisted last night showed restraint and that while property damage is extensive there seems to be limited personal injury due to the riot.
Freedom of expression is one of the most fundamental rights in a free society. Voices long ignored, have every right to be heard. But it is my sincere hope that protesters will find peaceful and civil means to express themselves. As yesterday’s protest turned to violence, I was humbled by the courage of many elected officials and community leaders of color, several who represent Salt Lake City. These leaders stood together to share their unique perspective as champions for justice in our community. Our only African American State Representative, Sandra Hollins emphasized that the protesters efforts to share opposition to systemic racism was overshadowed by the violence.
As the County Mayor, I look forward to embracing the message of these leaders and, in partnerships, expanding the dialogue in our community. I will offer my Council of Diversity Affairs as a resource to support conversations surrounding our criminal justice system and policing.
I also will continue my strong partnership with Sheriff Rosie Rivera, who I coordinated with throughout the night, and who also showed concern for all officers on the scene but for the protesters as well. We will regroup to ensure that the Unified Police Department and the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office continue to focus on de-escalation and employees receive robust training on racial bias.
As Salt Lake County Mayor, I am committed to the ongoing work towards justice and opportunity and will remain committed to a County where safety and prosperity are paramount.
Gephardt Daily will have more information on this story as it develops.