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Rallies, protests take stage outside of VP debate

Posted at 10:05 PM, Oct 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-08 00:05:08-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Several rallies for community causes and the vice-presidential candidates formed outside of Wednesday evenings debate at the University of Utah campus. While the afternoon stayed civil and quiet between the various groups, the evening transformed into tension and a clash between groups and with police.

Hours ahead of the vice-presidential debate, various groups gathered with excitement along University Street and 100 South in Salt Lake City, awaiting the arrival of the motorcades and kickoff of the debate.

"It's cool to see," said Logan resident Abell Larsen, who came to support Vice President Mike Pence. "You get hyped up, and your adrenaline gets going."

While some, like Abell, are from Utah-- others traveled from out-of-state just to experience this.

Neena Joiner flew in from Oakland where Sen. Kamala Harris is from and said it's an honor to see what's happening, especially being African American.

"This is incredible," she said. "Whoever is here, whoever wins, this is an incredible thing for a lot of people."

She noticed people expressing their voices on many different causes around her.

"Just to see everybody's issue that really speaks to their soul, to take that back and actually do research on that and see exactly where the policies lie, or how you can be an ally," she said. "Doesn't mean I just like one side or other, it's like, we're all people. We're all neighbors. You never know who your neighbor is, and so this is an opportunity for me to take this information back personally, find out about these communities and see how I can help them as they have often done for my communities."

One of the communities next to her held up Armenian flags and posters, raising awareness of and taking a stand against Armenian genocide.

Victer Manukyan said he wanted to bring light to what is happening on the land that's been taken away from them. The situation is very political, he said.

He said they are thankful the University of Utah was chosen as the debate site, so that people like him could show their voice and make something like Armenia a topic.

"The future vice president of the United States of America is in there. They have a lot of impact.," he said, referencing the debate happening just steps from him. "Short of reaching the future president of the United States, this is the most we can do."

A Catholic anti-abortion group stood next to the group protesting Armenian genocide. Nancy Sliwinski they love life, and believe it begins at conception. They want to put an end to abortion.

She said it's good to have that freedom of speech and put their viewpoints on the streets peacefully.

"This is an important issue for this election," she said. "If we don't stop abortion, then a country that kills its own young won't survive."

And of course, most of the masses of people who showed up did so to support their chosen VP candidate.

Elna Hamp volunteers for the Biden/Harris campaign in Utah and said they wanted to cheer on Harris.

But she also explained their goal is one of kindness toward the other side.

"That's very important to us, as Trump supporters come by, that we make sure that we are peaceful and kind," she said. "That's the number one goal that we have tonight."

Larsen, who stood on the corner of 100 South and University Street in a prime spot to see the Pence motorcade arrive, explained said his goal is to focus on what he has in common with others, rather than what divides them.

"If people think that Trump supporters are just attacking people, and we're all racist, and we don't want to talk to anybody or anything like that-- I hope they understand that, that's not who we are," he said.

Everyone awaited the big moment, as law enforcement closed 100 South and the sound of police motorcycles faintly drifted through the air.

Eventually the double line of motorcycles came into view, police lights flashing.

A group of SUVs followed, with Biden/Harris stickers visible in the windows.

The crowd cheered and chanted as they presumed that Harris was riding by in one of the vehicles.

Once the excitement from her arrival died down, again a double line of motorcycles rode in unison up the street, followed by a parade of SUVs, police vehicles and ambulances.

"That's him!" One man yelled.

As one vehicle with flags on the front drove by, it became apparent Pence was sitting in the back, waving to supporters.

Once the motorcades passed and the debate began to get underway, a police brutality protest grew on University Street.

"Black Lives Matter!" the group shouted.

People marched away from campus, and eventually north on 1300 East.

At that point, police in riot gear ran to the intersection of 1300 East, 200 South to stop them.

Protesters came face-to-face with officers and continued to chant and yell.

A group of people with Trump flags and T-shirts formed next to police, with some yelling at protesters.

Eventually many people marched away and left. Fox 13 witnessed police take one man into custody.

People stayed in the area well past the debate, eventually dispersing.