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SALT LAKE CITY — Protesters returned to Salt Lake City streets in smaller numbers Friday night as the nation continues the reel over the death of George Floyd, adding to their cries against police brutality after Salt Lake City police released what the mayor called “disturbing” body camera footage of the shooting of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal.
The footage — which shows police officers shooting at Palacios at least 20 times as he ran away, holding a gun, after police were called on a report someone was making threats with a gun — comes during a time of high tension between police and the public, nationwide and in Utah.
About 30 people met Friday evening on the street corner of 300 West and 900 South, where Palacios was killed May 23. The group included friends of Palacios who spoke about their memories of him.
“We live in a country where even the worst of criminals get to go to court and get to fight for their rights,” said Lorena Burciaga. “He didn’t even have the chance to defend himself.”
Burciaga said her family is “absolutely sure that Bernardo was killed because he is Hispanic.”
“They claim that this is a country for freedom, yet they hate us for the way that we look, for the way that we talk, for the way that we are,” she said. “They killed George (Floyd) in the most brutal way and they killed him in a very brutal way as well.”
“We want the system to change,” she continued. “We don’t want the police to have so much power that they think they can kill whoever they want and get away with it. We are demanding justice and we want to see the police pay for what has happened.”
Meanwhile, a crowd that grew to over 500 people by Friday evening gathered peacefully outside the Utah State Capitol, where someone handed out “Justice for Bernardo” signs and groups joined in chants of “Black lives matter.”
Ani Hamilton, 26, held a “Justice for Bernardo” sign she had hand painted. She said she hadn’t seen the footage of his shooting as of Friday, explaining she had been “too scared” to watch it, but she was moved by his mother speaking publicly about her son’s death. She said she had been too nervous to join the previous protests earlier in the week, but Friday she was moved to participate.
“To see what the police have done over and over,” Hamilton said, “It’s just time for it to stop.”
Tyeise Bellamy, a protester who spoke to the crowd about Palacios through megaphone, drew chants and cheers from the crowd and said she was devastated for his mother. She said she cried when she watched the footage.
“The rounds just wouldn’t stop,” she said. “No mother should have to lay her child to rest, and no mother should have to wait weeks to find out what happened to her child.”
As the sun set, the crowd of protesters began a march down State Street past the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building. They continued to march as dusk turned into nightfall.
“We’re going to do this right,” one protester shouted as the march began, urging against any “riots.”
Throughout the day, Utah National Guard soldiers parked their Humvee vehicles to block off streets in front of the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building, where Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Police Chief Mike Brown had addressed reporters about the footage of the shooting of Palacios.
Earlier Friday, after the release of the footage, Salt Lake City Democrats who are women of color in the Utah Legislature — Rep. Sandra Hollins, Rep. Angela Romero, and Sen. Luz Escamilla — issued a joint statement, calling the footage “disturbing,” but they also called for a productive response from the public.
“We urge calm while encouraging people to continue using their voices to advocate for the changes that we all want,” their statement said
When the marching protesters met the soldiers and a line of Salt Lake police guarding the public safety building, there were no violent clashes. Some protesters stopped to shout in soldiers’ faces, but they only stared straight ahead. One protester urged a man, who was becoming visibly upset as he shouted in a soldier’s face, to move along. The man obeyed.
“Why are you in riot gear? I don’t see no riot here,” protesters chanted as they marched past the soldiers wearing helmets and holding shields.
Earlier Friday, a different kind of protest played out.
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Todd Winn stood alone, silent, in front of the Utah State Capitol, hours before the first protesters had begun gathering. Winn stood in uniform, with tape across his mouth reading “I can’t breathe.”
He held a sign reading, “Justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, countless others” and calling for accountability for police.
Winn treated Friday as a day of silence, his girlfriend, Katie Steck, explained to KSL.
“He has been very angered and appalled by the injustices that have been happening,” she said.
Steck explained Winn is a veteran who was medically discharged from the Marines and sustained traumatic brain injuries after he was injured by roadside bombs when he served in Iraq in 2005.
Steck said because of those injuries, he has chronic fatigue, so standing in the heat of the day for three hours outside the Capitol was a big challenge for him, but he wanted to protest in a different way — in a way that maybe would resonate with some who have been angered by the violent protests or looting.
Steck said he wanted to show there’s a way to protest your country but still be patriotic.
“Seeing a lot of things that have happened, that’s not the kind of America he wants,” Steck said, and not the kind of America he’d sacrificed for. “That’s not what he wants to represent.”
Contributing: Jasen Lee