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Salt Lake City protests police brutality on New Year's Eve

By C. R. Manor

New Years Eve protest against police brutality in Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City, UT – Utah Against Police Brutality rang in the New Year with a rally here at the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building. Around 50 people braved the freezing temperatures to hear speeches against the ongoing police brutality in the U.S. In the state of Utah, police murders are outpacing those committed by drug dealers, gang members and child abusers.

In 2014, two high-profile police shootings occurred, taking the lives of Dillon Taylor and Darrien Hunt. Officer Bron Cruz killed Dillon Taylor, even though Taylor was unarmed. A body camera captured the incident; however, Salt Lake City (SLC) District Attorney Sim Gill justified the shooting. SLC Police Chief Chris Burbank said, “Under the circumstance, he used the appropriate force necessary facing that difficult situation,” while in the same breath he declared, “that young man shouldn't have lost his life.”

In another police murder, Darrien Hunt was stopped while carrying a model toy sword after two 911-phone calls reported him as suspicious. Darrien was an African American man walking in the majority white suburb of Saratoga Springs.

Despite contradicting testimonies, officers Schauerhamer and Judson were cleared, with Utah County District Attorney Jeff Buhman justifying the shooting. This result came despite video surveillance showing Darrien Hunt running for his life, with no toy sword in hand when the fatal shots were fired. The autopsy reports six shots to Darrien’s back. It was reported that Officer Judson wore a body camera that day, yet it was not activated during the encounter.

Activists are looking forward to 2015 as a year when all this changes. Utah Against Police Brutality made two New Year resolution: a campaign to create mandatory external reviews of all police shootings and a campaign to organize community classes for Know Your Rights training.

“They kill indiscriminately. They never are held accountable. Nobody asks questions. They sweep it under the rug and lie, then vilify the victim after that,” said Ash X to the crowd in front of the Federal Building.

Pratik Raghu spoke: “I was deeply upset by the way that the UN Human Rights Commission and Committee on Torture dismissed and belittled Mike Brown's family members.” Raghu views the killings, “as part of an international epidemic of police violence against civilians from Ferguson to Palestine to India.”

“The way the Ogden Police Department racially profiles Latino youth results in higher incarceration rates,” explained Malik Dayo an activist from nearby Ogden.

“Now we have to talk about Antonio Martin, not just Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Darrien Hunt,” explained Lex Scott, president of the United Front Party. Lamenting the ever-growing list of African Americans shot dead by police, Scott added, “We need to let those people out there know, that there will be no peace until we get our justice.”

Protesters marched on major streets in downtown Salt Lake City, taking the full lane of traffic on State Street, Main Street and West Temple. They then staged a die-in at a busy intersection, causing traffic to shut down and TRAX trains to back up.

The marched ended at the New Year’s ball drop, with protesters shutting down a major intersection. Police scrambled on scene to block off traffic, while protesters chanted “From Ferguson to SLC, end police brutality!”

A dozen SLC police officers looked on as cars forced their way through the crowd of protesters. The cops stood idle as protesters took action, with some ending up on top of moving vehicles. No severe injuries were reported.

One SLC cop pushed his way through a crowd, using his wooden baton to shove protesters out of the way. This officer refused to reveal his name and badge number to protesters.

“Utah Against Police Brutality is a great group doing great things. The United Front Party is proud to march with them and address the issue of police brutality. Addressing this issue is long overdue,” declared Lex Scott at the end of the action.

Follow activists on the ground in Utah with #utahprotests.

#SaltLakeCityUT #PoliceBrutality #DillonTaylor #DarrienHunt #UtahAgainstPoliceBrutality