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Park protest pushes against police brutality

Sofia Alcalá and other protesters march through downtown Salt Lake City on Saturday, June 13, 2020. The day’s demonstrations were the latest in ongoing protests against racism and police brutality that have followed the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Sofia Alcalá and other protesters march through downtown Salt Lake City on Saturday, June 13, 2020. The day’s demonstrations were the latest in ongoing protests against racism and police brutality that have followed the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Several organizations joined together at Pioneer Park on Saturday to speak out against police brutality and discrimination against people of color.

It is the latest in two weeks of daily protests held throughout Utah, where thousands of participants have voiced concern and anger, demanding justice for George Floyd, a black man killed by police on May 25 in Minneapolis.

“All lives don’t matter until black and brown ones do,” said Cassandra “Phoenix Child” Houston, 26, who spoke at Saturday’s well-attended protest. “We must use our living, breathing hearts to denounce police.”

Local groups, Freedom and Equality and Insurgence TV helped organized the local event to urge change in Utah, specifically defunding local police forces.

“Racism is the pandemic,” one of the signs touted.

While the numbers seemed to be smaller on Saturday — still, hundreds turned out — the sentiment was the same. Unlike previous rallies and violent protests, this one dwindled in size as the sun set.

Protesters marched from Pioneer Park heading east on 300 South to State Street, west on 500 South, stopping at the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office building where they yelled “shame on you” before continuing on to West Temple, then 600 South and back to State Street. They marched to 900 South, stopping for a makeshift vigil for people they knew who had fatal run-ins with police over the years, and then marched back to the park in the dark.

Salt Lake City police vehicles blocked off the roads where they marched for nearly four hours. While the crowd shouted things about hating them and getting rid of them, the police stayed away, but kept them safe.

One bystander approached a police officer and said, “everyone else supports you guys. Thank you.”

Mutual Aid passed out water, snacks and masks to keep people safe and healthy throughout the protest. Most people who participated wore their masks the entire time and avoided standing in clusters when they stopped to hear various speakers or to chant “no justice, no peace,” “hands up, don’t shoot,” and more.

Some involved in the peaceful protest said they were “showing the police our strategy of keeping the peace.”

“Racism is still real in America and that needs to change,” said John Sullivan, of Sandy. “It’s not enough to voice your words, put those words into action ... make change happen.”

Several people held signs stating “Black Lives Matter,” “end the war on black people,” “being black is not illegal” and other similar statements, but also demanding justice for friends and family who have died or been detained by police.

Adrienne Romero, a local immigrant rights activist said communities should control the police, not the other way around.

Saturday’s event was part of a national movement headed by the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, marking June 13, 2020 as a “Day of Action to Stop Police Crimes.”

“The cities of America have two choices: give people control over the institutions supposedly meant to serve them, or expose themselves for only being concerned with public relations and maintaining their own control,” a statement on their website reads.