SALT LAKE CITY — Mayor Erin Mendenhall joined with protesters marching through downtown, even participating in a "die-in" outside the Public Safety Building to protest the deaths of black people at the hands of police.
As thousands of demonstrators marched from Capitol Hill to Washington Square (where City Hall is), Mayor Mendenhall, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson and other local mayors met them on the grounds and "took a knee" in a show of solidarity with the peaceful protesters. FOX 13 video from the event shows Mayor Mendenhall joining in the protest afterward, walking to the Public Safety Building.
Some demonstrators yelled at the mayor for such a heavy police presence during the protest, but others rushed to her defense. Photos provided to FOX 13 show the mayor in the crowd with others, including Park City Mayor Andy Beerman, as they laid on the ground with other activists for eight minutes, denoting the time George Floyd was on the ground with a Minneapolis police officer's knee on his neck as he died. Floyd's death has sparked worldwide demonstrations, including protests in Salt Lake City that have lasted for five days now.
The mayor's office confirmed to FOX 13 her participation alongside other local mayors.
"Mayor Mendenhall is committed to the work to make change with our communities here in Salt Lake City. Tonight’s protest offered a space to start some important conversations, and the work ahead of us is her focus," her office said in a statement to FOX 13.
The mayor has faced criticism by the ACLU of Utah and Black Lives Matter for imposing a curfew (which has since been lifted), as well as some police officers' response during Saturday's protests that turned violent. The mayor has urged people with complaints about police misconduct to report it for investigation and her office on Thursday said some investigations were under way (including removing an officer from duties who is accused of pushing a man with a cane). A man who charged at protesters with a bow and arrow was arrested Thursday on felony charges.
Mayor Wilson has called a Friday news conference where she is scheduled to unveil some policy proposals related to policing, housing and economic opportunity through her Council on Diversity Affairs. Governor Gary Herbert recently sat with black community representatives in an emotional meeting to hear accounts of racism and discrimination in Utah. He left promising a follow-up in 30 days with policy proposals.
In a joint statement with the state's Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission and Multicultural Commission, the governor called for people to "oppose violence and oppression against any group of people."
"We know that America’s 'sin' of racism is still too prevalent. People from marginalized communities who suffer everyday indignities and who now march to protest the deeply rooted historical and systemic oppression are looking to each of us to say in words and actions, “no more," the joint statement said.
"The time to usher in change and healing is now. The time to learn from our history that tells a tale of a divided nation can guide us to do better and to fiercely work to achieve equity and inclusion in our policies and practices."