SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, July 11, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — Organizers of a protest against the Salt Lake City’s planned inland port met with the media Thursday morning to say that any violence at the event was initiated by responding police, by members of the public, and by rogue protesters who did not follow clear instructions to remain non-aggressive.
The panel of speakers appearing in front of a banner that said in Spanish “Protect Our Community.” The speakers, most of whom gave only their first names, said they represented a number of organizations, including the SLC Brown Berets and Utahns Against Police Brutality.
“On Tuesday afternoon, community members from across the Salt Lake Valley held a rally at the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce to protest the construction of the polluting port, or the inland port,” said a man who identified himself only as Anco.
The plan was to occupy the upstairs and downstairs of the building, and protest with song and dance, he said.
“Without warning, Salt Lake City Police officers swarmed the lobby. We watched in horror as they choked, pushed and arrested our community, separating children from their parents, shoving our elders and assaulted disabled people. During these moments of violence, we united as a community in trying to protect one another and pull our homies to safety and so we could leave the situation.”
A woman who identified herself as Maura said her community — described in other parts of the news conference as black, brown and indigenous people — was used to police brutality and violence.
“The slower, more subtle violence created by the toxic industry and refineries on the west side poisons people’s lungs and violence every day. The racial profiling and heavy policing of our communities is a threat to our safety every single day. The increase in migrant arrests and deportations puts fear in our families every day. Plans to build to prisons and immigration detention centers threaten our freedom every day.”
Several of the speakers mentioned comments made by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert in a news release:
“Anti-Inland Port activists went way beyond the pale today when they stormed the Chamber of Commerce Building, attacked journalists, and terrified workers at the chamber,” Herbert wrote.
“This was more than just a protest; this was borderline terrorism. This was bullying, intimidation, and violence, and will not be tolerated.”
The activists contended that Herbert’s statement was tantamount to slapping a target on their backs, saying white supremacists and those who practice hate would now feel justified in committing acts of violence against them and their community.
The activists were motivated by love for their people and the environment, the statement said. They had tried multiple other official avenues to address their concerns about the inland port, which they believe will poison the air of the nearby community and the whole region.
It was only when all other avenues failed that they planned the peaceful protest, Anco said.
Police from Salt Lake City and other responding agencies arrested five people and took them to jail for booking. Three others were ticketed at the protest site and released, an SLCPD statement says.
Maura said that reported urine deposited on the building’s floor was actually drinking water spilled from a bottle once police got aggressive.
Asked about the assault of a news cameraman, organizers said they did not recognized the man, and could not control behavior of members of the public who showed up for their protest.
Asked about damage to a wall, Anco said walls could be fixed, but climate change, if unchecked, will do irreparable harm to the planet within 10 to 12 years.
Anco said people on all sides of the conflict can learn from what went wrong at the planned peaceful protest. He said he hopes the incident will result in community liaisons being formed, along with a more open dialogue between government officials and activists who care about the the community and the environment.