Salt Lake City residents marched over five miles on June 3 in protest of police brutality and racism. The protest, like many across the nation and most others in Salt Lake City, was peaceful.
Protesters marched from Washington Square Park to the John R. Park Memorial building on the University of Utah campus, where black community members congregated on the building steps and passed around megaphones to address the crowd.
“Every day I’ve been out here protesting with my brothers and sisters has been nothing but peace and love,” one of the speakers said. “If the white man does not get his knee off our neck, we will get up and fight back.”
One protester in the crowd, who said he did not feel comfortable sharing identifying information with the media, added the past few nights of peaceful protests indicate a problem among police officers, not protesters.
“We’ve seen over the past couple nights how tensions never escalate, violence never breaks out until the police show up and instigate things,” he said. “That track record of instigating violence and blaming it upon people who are asking for justice, asking to literally not be killed, is unacceptable.”
This protester said he hasn’t been impressed with Salt Lake City’s response to recent demands for justice and called for large-scale reform. “I think the ultimate goal is to abolish the police and to completely defund them as quickly as possible, but the short-term goal would be to hold police officers accountable.”
Protester Malachi Mallory said he didn’t understand police officers’ intense response to nationwide protests. “We’re all just trying to come together for a better cause overall. I don’t know why it’s such a big deal.”
The desire for police system reform is shared by many protesters. Collin Williams and others attended the protest to raise awareness for a petition to send a police reform bill to Congress.
The proposed bill would establish an independent civilian review board for police officers under investigation, mandate body and dash cameras, require body and dash camera footage be released to the pubic and make tampering with that footage a crime.
“We have a lot of people right now who obviously want to make change, and extending the change beyond just today requires things like passing laws,” he said.
Besides demanding police reform, activists across the nation have been calling for cultural change. One protester, who said she was not comfortable sharing her name, was moved to tears while describing the plight of the black community in Utah.
“We live in a state where it’s extremely white privileged and ignorant and where people don’t realize the effects of that ignorance,” she said. “We are human beings, and we have a soul and we have a mind and we just want to be looked at as regular people, just like everyone else, and not to be ostracized or stereotyped because of the color of our skin.”
After the speeches were finished, protesters lay on the ground in eight minutes of silence in honor of George Floyd, after which they marched back to Washington Square Park to conclude the protest. Police officers and National Guardsmen lined the streets near the park but did not approach the protesters.