Shouts reverberated off the walls inside the Salt Lake City and County building Thursday as a group of a dozen protesters marched to Mayor Jackie Biskupski’s office on the third floor.
“Justice for Cody!” they yelled. “Justice for Cody!”
Over the next two hours, the anti-police-brutality demonstrators, including Cody Belgard’s older brother and father, shifted between chants and pleas for the two city employees sitting at desks in the office’s foyer to talk to them. They were, the protesters said, constituents, and many of them said they had voted for Biskupski.
After Chief of Staff Patrick Leary initially told protesters a meeting with family would be set up, but nothing would happen that day, the employees — Leary at one desk and executive assistant Christie Marcy at the other — met the continued requests and shouts with stone-faced silence.
All this, protesters said, just for the chance to sit down with the mayor.
Belgard was killed Nov. 9 by Salt Lake City police. Family has said Belgard’s back was turned when he was hit, but body camera footage doesn’t show the shooting. Two months after his death, his family is still searching for answers and wanted to get clarification from Biskupski on “misinformation” they’ve heard about the case, including if Belgard’s autopsy was completed and if District Attorney Sim Gill had received the investigation to screen the shooting officer for charges, Belgard’s brother Marvin Oliveros said. Belgard’s death was one of 19 in Utah at the hands of police in 2018 — the most fatal shootings by police in the state recent history.
Gill said his office had received the case file and was reviewing it.
Oliveros said the family requested a meeting with Biskupski six weeks ago and still hasn’t gotten one. Utah Against Police Brutality member Dave Newlin said his group had asked for a meeting with her nine months ago and still hadn’t spoken with her. They came to the office Thursday on a mission to either speak with Biskupski or get a time and date secured for a future meeting.
However, Biskupski wasn’t in her office when the demonstrators arrived just after 3 p.m. She was filming an interview with Inside Utah Politics, spokesman Matthew Rojas said.
In response to the groups’ claims, Rojas said Leary met with Utah Against Police Brutality members Dec. 17. He also said the family’s original request to meet with the mayor was declined because the family wanted her to “intervene with an independent investigation, which she’s not able to do.”
“The mayor is happy to meet with the family but not for the purposes of intervening in an ongoing independent investigation,” he said.
Rojas added that Biskupski has “a lot of empathy” for Belgard’s grieving family, but that she doesn’t have much of the information the family is looking for. As per protocol, West Valley City police are investigating the shooting and only scant information has been released so far.
Before Leary and Marcy left the office about 5 p.m., Leary handed Oliveros his business card to set up a meeting. Oliveros took it for a moment, and then set it down on a desk. No, he said. He didn’t want a phone call. He wanted to talk right there.
That wasn’t going to happen, Leary said.
The city employees left the office through a side door, leaving the dozen protesters sitting on couches and armchairs or the floor. Salt Lake City Police detective T. Hansen and a security guard waited in the wings. Demonstrators chatted. Oliveros got water from a dispenser. Then, about 15 minutes later, two additional security guards arrived, and protesters were asked to clear the room.
As he walked away, Oliveros called out, “I’ll be waiting for Biskupski’s call."