About 30 peaceful protesters gathered at the intersection of University Parkway and State Street in Orem on June 2 to raise awareness for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Protest organizer Natasha Cadet said she created the event to show solidarity with Minneapolis and other cities protesting racism and police brutality. She also wanted to “pop that bubble” surrounding Utah residents and make them aware of issues the black community faces regularly.
“You can’t run away from it. You can’t change the channel,” she said. “You have to acknowledge that there’s injustice going on, and if you’re not outwardly speaking against it, then you’re in compliance and you’re allowing it to perpetuate.”
Cadet said she believes Utah County residents have good intentions but called on them to speak up and publicly condemn racism rather than support silently from the sidelines.
Protester Pizairia Warren added that people can make their views harder to ignore or dismiss by showing up to protests instead of just posting on social media.
“By being out here and holding up this sign and showing my face, it puts more behind the movement than just words,” she said. “When you can see me, you can see that I’m hurting. You can see that there’s a human behind these posters, behind these hashtags, behind these statistics.”
Warren, too, encouraged Utah County residents to stand in solidarity with the black community and other marginalized people. The Black Lives Matter movement, she said, does not negate the fact that all lives matter but focuses the conversation on a community that has been targeted and wants to feel safe.
“We want that for everyone. We want that for the Hispanics who are locked in cages right now. We want that for the gay people who feel like a hate crime might be committed against them because they show who they truly are,” Warren said. “We want it for everyone, not just for black people, but this is where we start because this is one of the most prominent problems in today’s America.”
Both Cadet and Warren called for justice for black people and others who have been harmed by police brutality or prejudice in the criminal justice system.
Protester and veteran Thomas Durham expressed the hope that more police officers would eventually show support for protesters. “The face that I can just kind of be gunned down in my own home is wrong on every level.”
Several people who didn’t have time to stand on the street corner showed their support by dropping off water bottles and snacks for the protesters. Others honked their horns and waved at protesters as they drove by.
Protester Ben Thomas said, as a white person, he felt the need to protest because injustice in the police system negatively affects everyone.
“An instance of brutality against a black person, against any minority in general, is an instance of brutality against all Americans and against all people,” he said. “All of us deserve to be treated with dignity and respect when it comes to police interactions.”
He said he hopes this and other protests send the message that young people expect meaningful change in the American police system.
Cadet encouraged the many college students living in Utah County to use their voices to call for change and reminded them that injustice is not just a black issue, but a human issue.
“In the history books, what side of the story do you want to be on?” she said.