SALT LAKE CITY — As the dust settles after a long, dangerous and emotional day of protests in downtown Salt Lake, some moments of kindness and solidarity are emerging.
Officers and U.S. Marshals were seen in dialogue with protesters. Some injured protesters made their way over to police where they received help. People provided water for protesters and law enforcement.
Here’s a look at the other side of the protests intended to address the circumstances of George Floyd's death while in the custody of Minneapolis police on Memorial Day, and the people who attended with the best of intentions.
Take a knee on Washington Boulevard
Protesters met at the Ogden Municipal Building at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The Facebook event encouraged social distancing and wearing of masks.
Posts from the event’s organizer, Malik Dayo, also clarified that he had been in contact with the Ogden Police Department before the protest. He assured them that the protest was not aimed at them, but instead focused on “mourning together.” The protest happened the same week that 24-year old Ogden Police Officer Nate Lyday was killed while responding to a domestic violence call.
The Standard-Examiner reported that hundreds gathered peacefully on the Ogden Municipal Building steps, and listened to speeches from Dayo and local NAACP organizer Betty Sawyer. According to Dayo, several officers also attended.
Following the event, Dayo stated on Facebook: “Ogden family, I want to thank each and every individual who showed up today in solidarity with Minneapolis and to honor the memory of George Floyd. I want to thank every speaker, every volunteer, and everyone who played a part to make this possible. I appreciate the peaceful and loving unity and showing respect to the officers who were present during their time of mourning. I would argue to say that this is the most united Ogden has ever been as far as race is concerned. Let's continue to lead by example as a city. Great job Ogden this is only the beginning of our journey.”
Early protests in Salt Lake City
Despite the event escalating into unrest following the ignition of a police car at 200 East and 400 South, thousands of protesters early in the day attempted to keep the event peaceful.
The Facebook invite for the protest, labeled the “Car Caravan for Justice, National Day of Protest” event, was originally intended as a vehicle-only protest and discouraged on-foot attendance. Social distancing and health precautions were also encouraged.
Many cars and motorcycles followed this invitation and stayed inside their vehicles. Many windows were painted with “Black Lives Matter” signs, and protesters inside pickup trucks held pamphlets and chanted.
Despite not being involved in the organization of the protest, as a seasoned protester, Aaron Campbell recognized that hundreds of people might walk anyway. He attempted to keep protesters in groups of 20 to obey social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The tactics worked for nearly an hour before a large group of protesters appeared, and the smaller groups merged together.
“I knew there were going to be hundreds of people on the ground, so I volunteered to help organize the ground people,” Campbell said. “(I) tried to keep them across the street, but when they crossed over we knew it was going to be a battle to keep them civil.”
Once protesters vandalized the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building about noon, Campbell’s pacifist tactics were instrumental in getting protesters to disperse again.
“The real hero in all of this is the gentleman in the Harley-Davidson we brought up to the front doors to try to get everyone’s attention to then follow out to disperse the crowd,” Campbell said, citing the loud vehicle and encouragement to keep marching in stopping further immediate vandalism to the building.
“We did the best we could with the chaos that was going to ensue,” he added. Protesters then marched to the Utah State Capitol.
When asked why he attended the protest, Campbell said, “I used to live in Minnesota, and watching the violence there on both sides just really got to me.”
Rod Baker attended the protest with his family in order to “show solidarity,” he said.
“Right now it doesn’t seem like anybody cares about what happens to black people and brown people, so I’m here to support their cause because we’re American citizens and police are here to protect us as well as everybody else,” he stated.
He also said he brought his children to the protest because he wanted them to be aware of police brutality, and their own right to equal treatment.
When protests shifted to the Capitol, many demonstrators brought crates of water bottles and passed them out for free to help avoid attendees suffering heatstroke. Others also offered food and passed out roses.
Even when a police patrol vehicle was burned in front of the Salt Lake City Library, the action was met with many crowd members strongly disavowing the action and saying it would not help the movement.
One final moment of warmth and compassion caught a KSL.com reporter's eye. Saturday afternoon, a woman walked into a downtown protest crowd, yelling something the crowd didn't like. Many scolded her, and then a man in the crowd reached out, put an arm around her and tried to diffuse the situation. The reporter then captured the touching moment.
One moment I keep going back to today--> This woman walked into the SLC protest this afternoon yelling something like "all lives matter." She was instantly scolded by protesters for a minute or two until this man showed put his arm around her and worked to calm the situation down pic.twitter.com/SszuD0Ff5f— Carter Williams (@cwilliamsKSL) May 31, 2020