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SALT LAKE CITY, May 30, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — What was planned as a peaceful protest in Salt Lake City grew from a few hundred attendees chanting for social justice to a crowd of thousands, a few of whom got violent, destroying a police car and spraying angry messages on nearby buildings and the Utah Capitol.
The protest was designed to bring attention to the in-custody death of George Floyd, a black man from Minneapolis who pleaded for his life as a white police officer knelt on his neck. Floyd died as nearby spectators pleaded with officers to allow him some air. The officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck has since been fired and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
The first few hours of the Salt Lake City protest were peaceful and focused. Then, a few people in attendance decided to spray paint messages on a police car, then flip it. Others beat out the windows and attacked it with objects ranging from a skateboard to a crowbar.
A few people jumped on top of the overturned car while others posed for smiling selfies with the vandalized vehicle behind them.
Soon, someone slipped something through the broken windows and yelled for others to stand clear of the expected explosion.
The fire grew slowly, but eventually everyone backed away due to the high flames and intense heat consuming the patrol car. A fire truck arrived and stood by, but allowed the totalled car to burn.
Police also held back, making sure no one got hurt. Protesters eventually peeled off the main crowd, some walking toward the Capitol and others headed in other directions.
As protesters arrived on the Capitol grounds, some sprayed messages on cement fixtures and others approached the staircase. More than two dozen Utah Highway Patrol officers stepped onto the stairs, making a human barrier between protesters and the Capitol.
The officers were not in riot gear, and their guns remained holstered. The crowd began to chant some of Floyd’s last words: “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”
Elsewhere in the city, live news camera caught people looting a downtown 7-Eleven.
Shortly after 5 p.m., Utah Gov. Gary Herbert tweeted that he was sending more law officials to the scene.
“We condemn violence and looting,” Herbert’s tweet says. “I have activated the National Guard to help control the escalating situation in downtown Salt Lake City.
“I once again call on all who are protesting to do so peacefully.”
Up at the Capitol, more officers arrived, most some with riot gear. As the standoff continued, some crowd members threw water bottles at officers, and as some began to leave the scene, others arrived.
At about 5:45 p.m., Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall called for an 8 p.m. curfew in the city.
Gephardt Daily has a crew at the scene and will provide updated information as the story develops.