Fourteen people face criminal charges from July confrontation with police over inland port

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Police struggle with protesters for control of a door at the Chamber of Commerce Building Salt Lake City on Tuesday July 9, 2019.

The Salt Lake County district attorney’s office filed charges against 10 people Monday in 3rd District Court accusing them of starting a riot in the lobby of the Salt Lake Chamber offices in July after a protest over the inland port turned into a violent confrontation with police.

All 10 face a charge of rioting, a third-degree felony with a possible sentence of one to 15 years. Nine of them face a charge of criminal trespass, a Class B misdemeanor.

Four others were charged in Salt Lake City Justice Court on misdemeanor counts.

The district attorney’s office said in a news release announcing the charges that it had reviewed “wide-ranging and vast amounts of evidence," including body camera, surveillance, media and cellphone footage.

“I think it’s important to recognize this is not about a First Amendment right to protest,” said District Attorney Sim Gill. “I myself have participated in rallies and gone up on [Capitol] Hill, but it is when some of that conduct turns into criminal behavior ... your right to the First Amendment comes to an end when you start to urinate and defecate in people’s offices.”

The 10 facing the felony count of rioting are:

• Richard Anderson Jr., 31, of Salt Lake City

• Joshua Macrae Baker-Cooper, 34, of Salt Lake City

• Kaden Cicily Fralick, 21, of Salt Lake City

• Nicholas Evert Jones, 30, of Salt Lake City

• Amy Kathleen Kovac, 28, of Salt Lake City

• Randy Navarette, 20, of Magna

• Rosemarie Zoe Obrien, 25, of Oskaloosa, Kan.

• Ethan Merrill Petersen, 25, of Salt Lake City

• Jackson Richman, 18, of West Jordan

• Hannah Kelman Zivolich, 24, of Mexican Hat.

Four more people have been charged in Salt Lake City Justice Court. Michelle Lynn Mann, 29, of Salt Lake City, faces three counts, of riot, criminal trespass and assault. The other three — Paula Carolina Bravo-Latin, 25; Elizabeth Allen Chauca, 30; and David Self Newlin, 35; all of Salt Lake City — face two counts each, of riot and criminal trespass. All are class B misdemeanors.

The July inland port demonstration, organized by ICE Free SLC, Civil Riot, Utah Against Police Brutality and other community groups, lasted nearly two hours. Police shut down 400 South between 200 East and State Street for more than an hour as demonstrators chanted, sang and at times danced inside and outside the Chamber building.

Civil Riot, in a statement Tuesday morning, said the charges were “inflated" with the intent of “silencing the communities most concerned and most impacted by the attempts of a wealthy class of politicians and multinational business leaders to profiteer off the destruction of land and the poisoning of our air.”

“These impacts are particularly devastating to communities on the west side, and will disproportionately impact people of color and low-income people,” the statement concluded. "We encourage those that live in this valley to consider the degree of violence the state and business class is demonstrating towards our communities; and consider how we can organize with one another to end this violence.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Police remove protesters occupying the Chamber of Commerce Building Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 9, 2019. Dozens of people showed up to protest the planned Inland Port. The protest began at City Hall and moved to the Chamber of Commerce.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown told reporters at the time that the department had documented six assaults against officers from 119 body camera downloads. Seventy-five officers responded to the scene over the course of five hours and ultimately arrested eight people.

Afterwards, Gov. Gary Herbert characterized the activists involved as “borderline terrorists," while protesters pointed to the conduct of police, who they said were overly aggressive.

The Salt Lake City Police Department opened an internal affairs audit after the protest to look at the actions of officers and planned to conduct an after-action review. Sgt. Keith Horrocks, a spokesman for the department, said Monday that those are “still in the queue” but that it was unlikely the results of either would be released to the public.

“The only time you’ll ever see something like that is if there’s an employment change because of those things," he said. "We don’t anticipate that right now.”

David Newlin, an organizer with Utah Against Police Brutality, said he thought it would be a “horrible injustice” if the police department chose not to release the information.

“There are pictures and videos of officers choking people, of officers taking people to the ground, abusing people with disabilities, abusing people of color,” said Newlin, a former Salt Lake Tribune employee. “For them to conduct an investigation and not say anything about it shows how corrupt and inept this police department really is.”

Newlin was present at the protest and was himself punched in the face by an officer, he said.

"I think these charges are horrible,” he said. “All of them should be dropped.”

A series of probable cause statements filed Monday tell a story of police arriving at Salt Lake Chamber offices, at 175 E. 400 South in downtown Salt Lake City, to find more than 200 protesters in the building — 50 of them in the sixth-floor chamber offices, chanting loudly.

Five protesters on that floor — Anderson, Kovac, Zivolich, Fralick and Obrien — had linked arms, using cylinders to cover their wrists and hands, a procedure known as a “sleeping dragon.” All five face charges of rioting and criminal trespass.

Navarette was seen on surveillance footage standing on a cubicle desk, stomping his feet and yelling, and now faces charges of rioting and criminal trespass.

Two officers tried to arrest Petersen, who refused to place his hands behind his back. A third officer then held his legs to prevent him from kicking. He was placed on a gurney and taken to a patrol car. In addition to rioting and criminal trespass, Petersen faces a charge of interference with an arresting officer, a class B misdemeanor.

In the lobby, according to the statements, people in the crowd chanted “f--- the police,” and surrounded some officers. One officer was pulled into the crowd, and was punched and kicked, police said.

Video footage showed Richman, who had gone from the sixth floor to the lobby, spitting on that officer, who then tried to arrest Richman — and when they fell to the ground along with Jones, Jones started kicking toward the officer’s head. In addition to the rioting and criminal trespass charges, Jones faces a charge of assault against a peace officer, a class A misdemeanor.

The statements said more video footage, taken across the street on Washington Square outside City Hall, showed a man on a bicycle arguing with several people. Richman is seen trying to take the man’s bike by pulling the handlebars. When the man swings his arm at Richman, Baker-Cooper started to punch the man in the face and head, egged on by other people, police said.

Baker-Cooper has been charged with rioting and a charge of assault, a class A misdemeanor, with an enhanced penalty under anti-gang laws because he is accused of acting with other people. He is the only one of the 10 not charged with criminal trespass.

After his arrest, Richman admitted that he spit on an officer, the statements say. Richman faces four counts in all: Two counts of rioting (one inside the Chamber offices, the other in Washington Square), one count of criminal trespass, and one count of propelling a bodily substance, a class A misdemeanor.

The owner of a company hired to clean up the building said he saw human feces in a sixth-floor cubicle and in a stairwell, according to a statement. The man said he smelled urine in five or six offices on the sixth floor, and in three places in the stairwell. The company charged about $7,000 for the cleanup.

Representatives with the Chamber did not respond to an immediate request for comment Monday afternoon on a total of the damage done to the building.

Activists held the protest, which began as a peaceful act of civil disobedience outside Salt Lake City Hall, to raise concerns about the possible impacts of the inland port, a sprawling distribution hub planned in Salt Lake City’s northwest side.

The planned development is expected to bring increased rail, truck and air traffic along with tailpipe emissions, and critics have long worried about its effects on air quality and wildlife in an already fragile ecosystem near the Great Salt Lake.

The inland port board, responsible for overseeing development in the area, has promised to mitigate those concerns and has argued that the land will develop with or without its direction and could actually be more sustainable under state control.

At the port board’s first meeting in four months last week, those opposed to the project came out again to speak against the development. Several were ejected and one person was carried out as protesters blew whistles to disrupt the board’s work.

Petersen, an activist with the group Civil Riot, has been arrested several times as he’s protested the port project. He said Monday that he thought the charges were “a statement about the state of this society when people are being charged with potential felonies and crimes and facing political persecution when standing up for a clean and livable planet.”