Provo Police are investigating gunshots and an injury after “Back the Blue” and Black Lives Matter protesters butted heads Monday night in downtown Provo.
Video shows a person firing on a vehicle that was pushing its way through protesters on University Avenue. “Several protestors began crowding around the vehicle. A male protestor ran to the SUV on the passenger side, pointed a handgun at driver and shot one round through the window. The driver, who was struck by the bullet, hit the gas trying to leave the situation,” Provo Police said on social media Tuesday morning.
The night started with each group on opposite corners and ended with counter-protesters marching and stopping traffic on Center Street and University Avenue before returning to the police station and being met by police in riot gear.
Throughout the course of the night, at least three vehicles were driven through the protestors as they blocked intersections, including the one that drew gunfire.
The pro-police rally collected notes for the police and passed out popsicles as cars drove by with signs and flags on 100 South behind the Police station. Provo resident Sara Thompson organized the event as a family home evening activity to show the police that people in the community supported them. Thompson didn’t anticipate the event would grow as large as it did.
“I hope they feel that despite the current issues we still need them and we recognize that they make our community a safe place,” she said.
At the same time, the counter protestors spoke over a speaker about police brutality and chanted on the corner of Center Street and 300 West. Protest organizers had participated in demonstrations in Salt Lake City and wanted to bring the protests down south to Provo in response to the “Back the Blue” rally.
Serena Maxwell, who lived in Provo on and off for seven years, helped organize the protest. “We just have this tendency to throw things under the rug,” Maxwell said about the conflict-averse culture in Provo, BYU and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Problem is the people who are most affected by racism — people who are Black, people who are Indigenous, people who are of color — they can’t ignore these things.”
Around 7:45 p.m., the counter protestors marched around the corner in front of “Back the Blue” rally. They proceeded to block the intersection of 100 South and 300 West while “Back the Blue” attendees met them in their trucks and honked.
The Back the Blue attendees chanted “blue lives matter,” and the counter-protestors responded with “blue lives don’t exist.”
After around 30 minutes of the two groups facing off, the “Back the Blue” rally ended and its attendees left. The counter protestors then continued to block intersections along Center Street before turning onto University Avenue.
Jacob Sala Siolo, one of the counter-protest organizers, said he grew up in Utah County and has been protesting almost daily in Salt Lake City. He hoped bringing the protests to the streets in Provo would help residents see the issue more. “Going through the streets, down all these businesses with people driving, they don’t have the opportunity to turn away. They have to look at it.”
As the protestors moved through the streets, the Provo Police and Fire departments worked to close off roads for the protestors. Provo Fire Chief James Miguel drove to the protestors to ensure a woman was OK after being hit by a truck. Miguel said the fire department was there to protect the protestors.
The protestors marched to 500 North and University Avenue before turning around and heading back to the police station. When they arrived at 9:40 p.m., they planned to disperse and return to their cars, but they were met with police in riot gear who surrounded the protest from all sides of the intersection.
“People have been hurt. Things have been damaged. Time to leave,” a police officer announced. Another officer declared the protest to be an unlawful gathering at 9:44 p.m.
Protest organizers asked attendees to leave, and the majority left for their cars. A handful remained to give police witness statements about the cars running through traffic.