SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Feb. 29, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — The rally by Utah Against Police Brutality began at 6 p.m. Monday, less than 48 hours after the incident that sparked it.
About 100 people stood downtown, in front of the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building. Several held signs:
“Black Lives Matter.” “Stop Police Brutality.” “Justice 4 Abdi”
Abdi Mohamed is the 17-year-old boy shot Sunday by officers from the Salt Lake City Police Department. Witnesses who spoke at the rally said Abdi had been holding part of a broomstick, and was getting ready to fight a 45-year-old Caucasian man who had the other piece of the broomstick.
When two officers on scene, near 210 S. Rio Grande Road, told the males to drop their weapons, the older man did, witnesses say, but Abdi held on to his and began to turn toward officers, who shot him in the torso.
Abdi survived surgery and is coming out of a coma, according to a Selam Mohammed, 19, who said he is a friend of Abdi’s. The older teen reports Abdi cannot yet speak.
Between rally speakers came chants, led by gravel-voiced leaders and repeated by the crowd:
“Hands up, don’t shoot, hands up, don’t shoot.”
“From Baltimore to SLC, end police brutality.”
After a half dozen chants, each repeated a dozen or more times, it was time for a speaker.
“It’s time to get angry,” said the man who had led the first chants.
“White people can get angry,” one woman in the crowd told her friend. “We black people have to be temperate.”
The crowd had doubled within 20 minutes or so. More people held more signs.
“Bring Back *Peace* Officers,” “Prosecute Government Bullies,” “”When Did Serve & Protect Become Comply or Die?”
And a sign attached to a broomstick and held high, by a black man, read “Am I Next?”
Michael Christian, a member of Utah Against Police Brutality, talked about promises made by Mike Brown, interim Chief of the Salt Lake City Police Department. Brown had told the city council about progress made, including the use of more body cameras and more accountability, with a goal of repairing the public trust.
“And not even two weeks later, any hope the SLCPD had of repairing public trust is gone,” Christian said. “They put at least three police bullets into the body of Abdi Mohamed.”
Chants shouted between each speaker kept the adrenaline level up.
Speaker Deeda Seed talked to the still growing crowd about opportunity.
“The mayor and the police chief are listening in a way they never have before,” she said, adding that collecting data on officers would be vital to community members hoping to police the police.
“Who (among the officers) is stopping people?” she asked. “Why are they stopping people? What are the demographics of the people they are stopping?”
Seed endorsed more training in the skill of de-escalating volatile situations.
“And praise cops for doing the right thing,” she said to the crowd, now several hundred strong. “Shooting people is not the right thing.”
Another speaker talked about an upcoming appointment to talk, initiated by Brown. She said he appeared to be genuinely sorry about the shooting by his officers.
Several speakers talked about the need to keep the momentum high and continue protests. Utah Against Police Brutality has a Facebook page that lists upcoming events.
When talks were done, the group some estimate as being 1,000 or more people joined in an unofficial march to the Police Safety Center.
Salt Lake City Police officers on motorcycles blocked off lanes of the street to keep traffic safely away from the marchers.
Rally participants later walked back to the Federal Building, and spent about an hour blocking traffic in the area. No injuries or property damage was reported.