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Peaceful protest turns violent in downtown Salt Lake City

Written by Tyler Bearss, Salt Lake Community College
Protesters call for change outside the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building on Saturday, May 30. The Utah rally followed the police-involved deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota and Bernardo Palacios Carbajal in Utah. Protesters call for change outside the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building on Saturday, May 30. The Utah rally followed the police-involved deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota and Bernardo Palacios Carbajal in Utah. Tyler Bearss

Editor’s note: This story was originally published by The Globe, Salt Lake Community College’s student-produced news site.

Following the deaths of George Floyd and Bernardo Palacios Carbajal, nearly a thousand protesters from Utah Against Police Brutality and other activist groups took to the streets in downtown Salt Lake City on Saturday.

The protest began at 11 a.m. near 500 South and Denver Street. Protesters, both on foot and in cars, proceeded to the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building, chanting “I can’t breathe” and “No justice, no peace” while carrying signs that bore names of the many black lives lost in recent police-related incidents.

“The only change that I want, is for change to actually happen, plain and simple,” said protester Lina De La Flor.

Palacios Carbajal’s mother stood on the steps of the Utah State Capitol and spoke to the crowd about the death of her son.

“Bernardo was 22 years old. He had a lot of dreams and a lot of things he wanted to do in life … the police killed him half a block from the bar … and no one wants to tell us anything,” she told supporters around 1:30 p.m.

Palacios Carbajal’s mother rallied protesters at the Capitol to continue to push for change.

“They need to stop killing our children,” she said. “We need respect! We need to be united!”

As demonstrators arrived at the police station downtown, two young men climbed on top of the northwest entrance. Some protesters wrote obscenities on the building while others chanted and threw eggs and tomatoes from below.

Tensions escalated around 3 p.m. when demonstrators flipped a Salt Lake City police vehicle and set it ablaze. Looting of a nearby 7-11 and the City Creek Center soon followed as the protest went from peaceful to violent.

Protesters also graffitied the Capitol grounds and chanted outside the building as the Utah Highway Patrol stood outside the entrance.

In response to the increasing vandalism and destruction of property, Gov. Gary Herbert tweeted, “We condemn violence and looting. I have activated the National Guard to help control the escalating situation in downtown Salt Lake City. I once again call on all who are protesting to do so peacefully.”

Peaceful protest turns violent in downtown Salt Lake City Click to Tweet

As the evening progressed, the protests continued to escalate. A counterprotester aimed a compound bow at BLM demonstrators just after 6 p.m. Demonstrators brought down the man, then overturned his vehicle and set it on fire.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced a citywide curfew from 8 p.m. Saturday through 6 a.m. Monday.

As the evening progressed, police officers from several agencies began enforcing the curfew and dispersing the protesters. Police arrested 46 people in total.

“I’m in shock that Utah stood up like this!” De La Flor said. “To others, it may look like [violence], but people want to be truly heard. Maybe all this will show them once and for all that we are tired of nothing happening! The more the police murder, the stronger the protests will get.”

Utah Against Police Brutality issued a statement following the protest, saying in part: “This is what happens when the people get tired of waiting for Salt Lake and Utah to do something about racist cops and police violence.”

“This is what happens when the people get tired of waiting for Salt Lake and Utah to do something about racist cops and police violence.” Click to Tweet

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