SALT LAKE CITY — As protesters and police collided Monday evening in Salt Lake City, several members of the black community are credited with de-escalating tense situations.
Tensions were running high Monday evening between protesters and police on 400 South and 300 East.
Amidst a group of dozens of protesters, at least one man threw rocks and a water bottle at a line of police officers. In turn, law enforcement fired rubber bullets.
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“The last thing we need is more violence,” Matt Byrd is heard saying to the protesters as they squared off against police.
Byrd said he left his family in Davis County to put himself in the crossfire.
“When the rocks and the golf clubs and the water bottles and all that stuff started coming out, I kinda just had enough of it. I said, 'I have to do something,'” Byrd said Tuesday.
The father of four said what happened Saturday overshadows the intent behind the protests: honoring George Floyd, police reform and equality.
“There was just a couple of moments where I was like, this is completely off topic at this point. This is a bunch of people that wanted an excuse to be angry at police and they wanted to come out just to fight with police for whatever reason and pretend it’s for Black Lives Matter,” Byrd said.
Black Lives Matter Utah has publicly denounced violence during demonstrations. On Monday, leader Lex Scott also came to speak to participants.
“It’s time to go home. You aren’t going to get violent and mess up my work on police reform,” Scott said over an intercom Monday to a group of protesters.
When darkness fell Monday, more than 100 protesters were surrounded by police in riot gear on South Temple. La’Troi Newbins negotiated a peaceful exit for the group without mass arrests.
“The change starts inside of us, not from the violent protests and not because a ‘peaceful protest never works,'” Byrd said.