SALT LAKE CITY — Protests in support of police reform continued in the downtown area throughout the day Sunday as members of the Utah LGBTQ and Latinx communities marched in solidarity with the Utah chapter of Black Lives Matter.
A nearly 7-hour protest came to an end in Washington Square Park in downtown Salt Lake City Sunday night, marking two weeks of protests against police brutality in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Despite weeks of marches, steam had not been lost among protesters as hundreds gathered in Liberty Park just after noon Sunday.
In usual protest fashion, marches gathered with signs demanding police reform and policy change – but Sunday’s group, hosted by the Utah Pride Center, brought new color to the protest in the form of different pride flags.
“We need to recognize that our protest was and always has been led by people of color and queer people of color,” said Utah Pride Center Executive Director Rob Moolman, during an interview with FOX 13 when the march was announced. “I think it’s important for our community to recognize and remember that our roots are in protest.”
At the front of the group, members of the Utah Black Lives Matter chapter took turns addressing the crowd, at one point asking everyone in attendance to kneel.
“All of the black people stand up,” said Moses, a members of BLM Utah.
“All of the people of color stand up,” he continued as the crowd cheered after each group stood.
“All of the members of the LGBTQ family stand up,” he said as the crowd continued to stand and applaud.
The mile-long march to Washington Square Park started around 3 p.m. Chapter members holding a “Black Lives Matter” banner led the way as the group chanted, “No justice, no peace.”
Upon arrival at Washington Square Park, the group melded with a second group, comprised of members of the Latinx and indigenous communities.
“We are fighting the same oppressor,” said Lex Scott, founder of BLM Utah. “We’re discriminated against for housing, for jobs, we’re profiled and killed by police -- so we have a lot of the same fight.”
Following a prayer, dance and speeches from members of the indigenous communities, Scott took the stage to address the crowd once again.
“I guess the country is sending out a memo that we are sick of watching black and brown people be murdered by police,” she said as the crowd cheered.
Others showed their support in the way of art; a local artist stood nearby cheering as she painted a picture of a black man being crucified on a cross.
“I just really feel like it is a very good depiction of what the black community has gone through as a result of racism and police brutality,” said local artist Jenna Rogan. “I just think it’s the perfect image to portray the pain that they’ve suffered.”
Among the outpouring of support, the groups pushed for police reform, including a bill drafted by BLM Utah dubbed the Justice and Policing Act. The bill demands a democratically elected, civilian-led police review board with the authority to bring charges to officers, as well as an increase in de-escalation and implicit bias training for officers, police to be equipped with less-lethal weapons, and body cam footage release policies.
“We need your phone calls, we need your signatures – that’s what we need, and we need your votes on Election Day!” said Scott as she continued to speak to the crowd. “No justice!” she said. “No peace!” the crowd shouted back.
As of Sunday, nearly 95-thousand had signed the BLM police reform bill petition.
“We really need capitalize upon these crowds right now,” Scott said. “They have to call their congressmen and senators about the Justice and Policing Act. They have to make their phones ring off the hook and say, 'We want you to vote ‘yes’ on Justice and Policing.'”
Sunday’s peaceful protest marked just over two weeks since a downtown protest turned violent. BLM said they will continue to march until they see reform.
“I am so sick of protesting,” said Scott. “I’ve been protesting for six years. If I never have to protest again for my rights, then that would be amazing -- I don’t want to do this and I shouldn’t have to, so hopefully they’ll pass that bill in the end of June and then we’ll be done.”