OGDEN, Utah, April 25, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — The guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minnesota doesn’t mean the fight for justice is over in general — in fact, it’s just begun.
That was part of the message in a rally promoted as “NAACP: Justice for All, the Path Forward,” held Saturday afternoon in front of the Ogden Municipal Building, 2549 Washington Blvd.
Another point emphasized by rally organizer and Ogden NAACP President Betty Sawyer is the need to focus on an issue she and the other rally attendees feel is of great importance to all residents of Ogden City and Weber County.
That issue is the need for a citizens’ advisory committee or citizens’ police review board to work with the Ogden City Council, Ogden Police Department and Weber County Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s critically important for the community to have a voice,” Sawyer said. “This is another window — we don’t want this time to pass, even though we’re in a period of mourning, we can’t be complacent. In the midst of mourning, sadness, we need to muster the courage to confront the issues.”
Sawyer called for people to write, phone or text local administrators within the next 100 days to urge them to work with the community in bringing together a citizens’ advisory committee. This time should be used as a catalyst to engage others in the push for civil rights, she said.
It’s a challenge for some people to keep coming back to the fight for justice, Sawyer told the rally participants, but, “We all want to live in a safe place, and we all want to get along.”
The Rev. William Beard came to offer a prayer and remind the group that “God has the power to strengthen us.”
A member of the NAACP and of 2nd Baptist Church in Ogden, Beard is also the pastor of a church in Pocatello, Idaho. Regarding the Chauvin verdict in Minneapolis, Beard said, “Nobody won. George Floyd’s family lost a son, a brother, five kids lost their father.”
Addressing those at the rally, Beard said, “We need to bring accountability to people hired to defend us and protect us.”
Accountability, police training, and diversity in the police department to reflect the diversity within the community are all factors that will bring us closer to equal justice for everyone, according to Malik Dayo, local activist and president of El Comite Social Justice Movement.
“We have some good officers, but they need more training, better training,” Dayo said. “We don’t have one black officer in Ogden. We need more diversity. Police need to look like the people here today (at the rally). We need elected officials to get on board for more diversity and training.”
(Note: Half of the people attending the rally were people of color and half were white.)
Dayo said that Weber County Attorney Christopher Allred and Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell “are not for accountability.”
“Ogden needs to understand that Black lives matter, Brown lives matter. We want Ogden to be the city other cities look to as an example.”
Dayo’s grandson, Damian, was asked if he wanted to comment on the issue, and the 5-year-old’s response drew a round of applause.
“I think racism is wrong,” he said. “Police should make up with black people.”
Ogden City Councilman Luis Lopez expressed his willingness to work with the community in furthering the concept of justice for all and seeking a police review board.
“People don’t understand what Black Lives Matter means,” Lopez said. “That’s why they try to counter with All Lives Matter.”
Another speaker was Karece Thompson, of the Utah Black Roundtable.
“Police reform is needed,” he said. “We need everyone to be treated the same under the law; otherwise we have a constitutional failure. Everyone should have their day in court — if they’re shot dead, they have no voice.”
The Rev. Stanley Ellington, of Ogden NAACP, also spoke about the need for greater accountability and asked that everyone work together as a community to make this goal a reality.
Angel Castillo, executive committee member of Ogden NAACP, had rally attendees repeat the web address for contacting Ogden City Councilmembers so everyone can call or email their councilmember and ask if they would approve a citizens’ police review board.
“We need to start from ground zero to build a bridge — the Citizens’ Police Review Board,” she said. “We aren’t asking for the moon. We’re asking for a conversation.”