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Katie Workman, KSL.com

'What if that were my daughter?' Utah protesters unite for Breonna Taylor, other victims of police violence

By Katie Workman, KSL.com | Posted - Jun. 6, 2020 at 12:39 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — On Friday evening, several hundred protesters gathered at the Utah Capitol building amid wind and stormy skies with a message: this is about much more than the death of George Floyd.

While Floyd’s death in the custody of a Minneapolis police officer and the graphic video accompanying it has been a catalyst for widespread protests across the county, many other black Americans have also died at the hands of police, and other citizens' deaths have also become a rallying cry for the movement against racism.

Ahmaud Arbery was shot in February while jogging by two white men who asserted they were attempting a citizen's arrest. Prosecutors allege the two men yelled racial slurs as Arbery lay dying.

Locally, some cite the May 23 death of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal, who appears to have been shot over 20 times by Salt Lake police while running away with a gun in his hand. The police body cam footage of the incident was released Friday.

In Louisville, Breonna Taylor was killed in March when police broke down the door of the apartment in an attempted drug sting against someone else; she was shot by police eight times after her boyfriend said he fired in self-defense. A wrongful death lawsuit on her behalf is pending.

Each of their names was on display at the Utah State Capitol on Friday — on signs, amid speeches, and in spirit.

One chalk piece on the sidewalk displayed their names amongst a long line of others, with the simple caption: “Rest in power.” Friday was also the day Taylor, a young EMT, would have turned 27.

One protester, identified only as Nina, held a sign up to passing cars in honor of Taylor’s birthday.

“I think that by saying that she should have been 27 years old on today, that gives a really striking message ... and it kind of makes it relatable to a lot of people,” Nina explained. “That if my mom drove past and saw this sign, she’d have a ‘Oh yeah, what if that were my daughter?’

“I also think that the death of George Floyd and Ahmed Arbery and countless others have been tragic. We haven’t really been talking about Breonna Taylor as much, as she deserves it as well.”

Nina also discussed other cases of police mismanagement beyond the scope of race.

“One of the cases that is not necessarily specifically related to black lives matter, but I think that it kind of like hits all of the similar mishandlings and negligence of police is the case of Lauren McCluskey. They completely mishandled her case,” she said, citing a recent report that a University of Utah police officer boasted about having access to explicit photos of McCluskey. The officer has denied inappropriate conduct and said the photos were brought up as part of the case.

“That is the sort of disgusting attitude that I think needs to change, and I think it needs to change in the police systems. It needs to be talked about.”

When asked about police responses to protesters across the country, Nina said: “I do want to believe that some police are protesting and are kneeling with protesters. I’ve also seen many accounts and stories about how police and undercover people associated with police or associated with white supremacy groups are the ones instigating violence, and so all that sometimes can feel really enraging.

“I do think police are in the wrong and that police have instigated a lot of the violence we have seen at the protests," she said.

Rissa, who is African American, Puerto Rican and Polynesian, echoed Nina’s sentiments.

“It’s been going on too long, way too long. … I love that they’re kneeling with us and standing with us, but some aren’t. We need all of the cops to do that with us, and some aren’t willing.”

After the arrest of all four officers involved in Floyd’s case, many of the protests have shifted toward the goal of broad police reform and an attempt to get other potentially racially motivated cases looked at.

“We want them to reopen cases, like for Breonna Taylor,” Rissa said. “We want to get justice for her and arrest those cops. I think we’re really getting somewhere.”

Speakers at the protest followed the theme, invoking many other cases like Floyd’s, which are still awaiting arrests, officer investigations or disciplinary action.

At one point, the crowd joined together to sing Happy Birthday to Taylor and broke into loud applause at the song’s conclusion.

While the death of George Floyd may have sparked the protests, the movement has become a home and memorial for countless others.

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Katie Workman

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