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Salt Lake City shut down by protesters demanding justice for Eric Garner

By Cannon Atkinson

Salt Lake City die in at LDS Temple Square.

Salt Lake City, UT – Hundreds of people rallied at the Wallace Bennett Federal Building the night of Dec. 6, the latest in an ongoing string of protests organized by Utah Against Police Brutality. After the failure to indict Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, a grand jury in Staten Island let NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo walk away without charges. Officer Pantaleo used an illegal chokehold on Eric Garner, resulting in what the coroner ruled a homicide.

In the state of Utah, police are reportedly killing people at a higher rate than drug dealers, gang members and child abusers are. The large crowd remembered local victims of police violence such as Dillon Taylor, Danielle Willard and Darrien Hunt. The recently formed Utah Against Police Brutality is working with the families of police murder victims in an effort to jail killer cops and end the violence.

The rally started with Chris Manor speaking the final words of Eric Garner, and the group echoing, “I can't breathe!” Manor, an organizer with Utah Against Police Brutality said, “It's not just that racism is institutional or systemic, racism is the institutions and racism is the system. It's the courts and Congress, the jails and the schools, it is the police and the military.”

Lex Scott of the United Front Party spoke about the recent string of murders targeting unarmed African Americans including Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley and Mike Brown. “The police are killing us.”

Gregory Lucero, of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, called the murder of Eric Garner a lynching. “As a Chicano man in occupied Aztlán, I could be the next person with six bullets in my back.” Lucero continued, “This isn't about hating white folks, this is about respecting our right to self-determination.”

Jessica Arter encouraged people to get involved with Utah Against Police Brutality to organize better and make demands. Arter, who teaches preschool, said “I want all the children in my preschool to grow up and have a future.”

Palestinian American woman Muna Omar talked about the outrageous collaboration between the NYPD and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) who share training and tactics. Omar also pointed out that as a Palestinian, she knows what oppression is and that she recognizes it in America.

DaKishia Reid of the Cedar City Peace and Justice Coalition recognized the youth in the crowd and how important it was for them to be involved in the struggle. Reid, quoting Angela Davis, lead people in a chant, “I'm no longer accepting the things I cannot change... I'm changing the things I cannot accept.”

Hundreds of protesters then took the streets. They attempted to march through the Mormon Church-owned City Creek mall to take their message to the people, but were blocked off by police. Protesters then marched up Main Street where they held a die-in on the street, blocking off Salt Lake City’s light-rail train.

The mass of protesters next marched through Temple Square at the very heart of Salt Lake City. Many were out to see the holiday lighting and were surprised when protesters marched through the Latter Day Saints temple area and held another die-in.

Locking arms and chanting slogans such as “Black lives matter” and “Shut it down!” the march continued down State Street, blocking motor traffic with police scrambling on the scene. At major intersections protesters staged die-ins. The group went to another public holiday site, Gallivan Plaza, where ice skaters stood gaping at another die-in in front of a large Christmas tree. One protester remarked, “This will the first Christmas where many families are going to be missing their loved ones who were stolen by police violence.”

The march ended up back at the Federal Building where protesters locked arms and held the perimeter of an intersection, as police watched. The group forced any motorists that attempted to get through to turn back. One motorist attempted to drive through protesters, but the group immediately stopped the driver and recorded the license plate.

As the rally closed out, Gregory Lucero reminded protesters of the importance of security culture. “We don't talk to law enforcement.” Lucero emphasized that law enforcement will look for any opportunity to divide a movement.

Utah Against Police Brutality will hold an organizing meeting on Dec. 17 at the Salt Lake City Public Library. For more info:

#SaltLakeCityUT #PoliceBrutality #EricGarner #UtahAgainstPoliceBrutality