SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, July 11, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — When protesters clashed with police in downtown Salt Lake City on Thursday night, it proved to be the most violent and costly encounter since May 30 — the day a demonstration fueled by the shocking on-camera murder of George Floyd erupted in anger.
Cars were burned, windows smashed, rocks and bottles flew.
Cops responded from across the state, while Gov. Herbert deployed the National Guard.
Twenty-one police officers were injured. Forty-six demonstrators were arrested.
While cool heads have largely prevailed amid gestures of unity and calls for reform, protests have continued every day.
On Thursday night, however, the rage returned — a sharp, emotional response to District Attorney Sim Gill’s decision not to press charges in the officer-involved shooting death of 22-year-old Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal.
The protest wasn’t as large as the May 30 demonstration, but in the minds of many marchers, the anger and injustice they felt Thursday was just as real. At the very moment the announcement was made, any gestures of healing or reconciliation embodied by kneeling police chiefs or local politicians evaporated.
The essential findings of the investigation may have proved Palacios-Carbajal was armed. It may have proved he was ordered 17 times to drop his weapon and surrender. It may have proved he had an opportunity to target pursuing officers, prompting cops to open fire.
In the end, none of those things mattered.
What the demonstrators heard, loudly and clearly, was a 22-year-old man of color had been chased several blocks and shot in the back by SLC police officers. What they heard, loudly and clearly, was police fired 34 rounds in a span of nine seconds, striking Palacios-Carbajal 13 to 15 times.
What they also heard, loudly and clearly — was one of the pursuing officers yelling, “Tase him! Tase him! Tase him!” just as shots rang out. They wonder why the other officers didn’t consider the use of less-than-lethal force.
Within two hours of Sim Gill’s announcement, a group of about 60 protesters appeared downtown, some of whom used their vehicles to block traffic on 500 South adjacent to the District Attorney’s Office.
Five-gallon buckets of paint were distributed in front the D.A.’s office, and soon the street was colored red. So, too, was much of the building.
Over the course of the next two hours, the ranks of the protesters swelled to about 500. It wasn’t until windows were being smashed that police declared the gathering an illegal assembly and ordered the crowds to disperse.
At least two police officers were injured in a series of confrontations, as were at least two protesters.
The following images were taken over the course of four hours Thursday night.
By the time it was over, police estimate damage to the District Attorney’s Office totaled between $100K and $200K.
As the evening wore on, riot police slowly surrounded protesters, corralling those who refused to disperse in preparation for multiple arrests.
Before police were able to close in, demonstrators asked permission to leave. The request was granted and they made their way home.
As the crowd departed, they offered a few parting shots.
“This is not over,” one man shouted. “We will be back! We will be back!”