SALT LAKE CITY — A rally demanding justice for Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal, who was shot and killed by police in May, met an abrupt end Thursday afternoon when one of the protesters was arrested by police.
Organizer Sofia Alcala was speaking to about 40 protesters at the foot of the Salt Lake City-County Building when she was informed that someone in their group had just been arrested in a different area of Washington Square Park.
The group had originally gathered to march to the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office to call for justice and urge Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall to fire the officers responsible for Palacios’ death.
Family members and other supporters have been rallying almost daily for the last couple of weeks calling for answers about the shooting.
Alcala kicked off Thursday afternoon’s protest chanting “justice for Bernardo.” Protesters plastered posters saying “free the children,” “murderers” and “abolish racist gangs with badges” across park benches, the building’s windows, signs and a number of light poles. Some protesters carried pots and pans to make noise.
Alcala said the plan was to meet in the afternoon and at Washington Square Park instead of the group’s usual time and place to “catch people by surprise.” She called for answers, including information about who is behind Palacios’ death.
Regarding the arrest that abruptly ended Thursday’s protest, Salt Lake police detective Greg Wilking said the protester was arrested for interfering with a traffic stop.
Police were doing a traffic stop on a vehicle when the protester walked over and began filming, which “isn’t an issue in of itself,” but he came into the roadway forcing the officer to divert his attention, Wilking said.
According to Wilking, the man did not move out of the road when he was instructed to do so by officers.
“It interfered with the situation, which is really dangerous for officers to have to divert their attention from a traffic stop over to a pedestrian,” Wilking said. “He has the right to film but he needs to not interfere.”
Laja Field said she saw the officers arresting the man and caught part of the encounter on video.
“They were literally four officers kneeling. I didn’t know if they were punching him or whatever,” Field said, explaining that she was driving past and pulled over upon seeing the arrest.
“What you don’t see before is they were actually on him with their knees and that’s what kinda got me to pull over because I was scared because it looked like they were also punching him,” Field said. “I yelled when I got out of my car and they got up.”
Wilking said the level of force officers use is “often dictated by the individual that we are arresting.”
“My understanding is there was a degree of force used and that will all be documented on camera,” he said. “Our officers have cameras.”
Alcala ended the protest shortly after so she and other organizers could figure out what happened.
“Just for safety purposes I’m going to need to figure out what happened to him and if he’s OK, so I’m just going to call this protest for the rest of the day,” she said to protesters. “Get home safe, please.”