SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake City woman, who ended up trapped in her van by protesters after speaking at the protest, said she feared for her life.
Nathalie Herrey said the seemingly peaceful rally turned dangerous in a hurry.
“People were so hyped up on adrenaline. Like, the whole atmosphere was very hateful,” Herrey said.
She lives in downtown Salt Lake City and came across the rally while driving with a friend near Washington Square Saturday night. They decided to check it out. When they were done and drove away, protesters started swearing at them and trapped the van in traffic.
A KSL TV news crew got video of her white van stuck at the intersection of State Street and 500 South.
Herrey is a single mother who immigrated from Sweden two decades ago and recently graduated from the University of Utah.
She shared her immigration story on the microphone during the protest.
“The odd part was that what had seemed like so peaceful and nice over there,” she said pointing to Washington Square, “you know, just people kind of sharing their things and supporting, suddenly got much more vicious. Like the whole tone was just very, very harsh.”
At one point, she said, three women were on the hood of her van, but our video did not show that. She even got out and pleaded with protesters.
“That’s when I got scared, you know, because I couldn’t get out,” she said. “I said, ‘Just please get out of the way, I’m just trying to get home, like I live up here.’”
She called 911, which took her number and location. But nobody came to rescue her.
“I had cameras this close to my face, filming me while I’m crying, trying to get out,” said Herrey. “It was interesting how it changed so fast from being peaceful to what happened in the street. I don’t know what ignited them, why it turned so vicious and hateful.”
Herrey suspected it was simply a mob mentality that took over.
She said a protester showed empathy after 10 minutes, and she also thought our camera crew defused the situation. She was able to drive off.
“It can be scary for someone driving up the street and getting trapped in an intersection,” said Deputy Chief Lamar Ewell with the Salt Lake City Police Department.
Since the protests first began, Salt Lake City police said officers have tried to protect protesters from traffic as they exercise their rights to free speech. They’ve also tried to protect traffic from the protesters.
“We want everybody to be safe,” said Ewell. “So, we’re just providing a bubble at a distance for them to do that.”
I had cameras this close to my face, filming me while I’m crying, trying to get out. It was interesting how it changed so fast from being peaceful to what happened in the street. I don’t know what ignited them, why it turned so vicious and hateful.
Police teams leapfrog each other as they move from intersection to intersection trying to anticipate the protesters.
Ewell said they monitor these situations closely. “If it becomes a life safety issue, we’re prepared to respond,” the deputy chief said.
Extraction teams are ready to move in to save someone if needed, he said.
“I feel bad for the police. They have a hard job,” said Herrey, who does not feel let down by the police.
“It was definitely giving me a feeling of a war zone,” she said. “The whole perception of my city has changed. It’s very different.”
Salt Lake police want everybody to respect each other’s rights when they’re out in public. They also advised people to stay away in the evening if they’re not interested in being part of a rally that may not remain peaceful.