Demonstrators gather at SLC Unitarian church to protest George Floyd’s death

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rev. Monica Dobbins holds a sign to passing traffic as a group of people protest police brutality in front of the First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City on Friday, May 29, 2020.

Monica Dobbins woke up Friday morning to shocking headlines. Protesters had set a Minneapolis police precinct was ablaze. Someone fired a gun at a similar demonstration in Denver.

Both events were in response to the slow death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man killed while being restrained by a Minneapolis police officer on Memorial Day as the white officer knelt on Floyd’s neck. The officer, 44-year-old Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the case.

She said, “I just woke up this morning wonder what our church out to be doing in this moment,” as groups across the country are decrying violence perpetrated against black people by police.

Dobbins settled on a demonstration on the steps of Salt Lake City’s First Unitarian Church, 569 S. 1300 East, where she serves as assistant minister.

By 5 p.m., about 20 people had gathered in a loose cluster on and near the church steps, carrying signs declaring that “Black Lives Matter,” and also wearing masks to try to reduce some of the risk of being there amid the coronavirus pandemic. Some more arrived later.

The small group held their signs toward the street, waving at passing cars, some which honked in support.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) People protest police brutality, holding signs up to passing traffic on 1300 East in front of the First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City on Friday, May 29, 2020.

Standing outside the church Friday, Minister Tom Goldsmith ticked off the recent deaths of black people at the hands of police: Floyd in Minnesota. Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. Breonna Taylor in Kentucky.

“You put this all together, it should make white people understand that we just cannot treat this like another day,” he said. “We need to show our support and solidarity for all people of color.”

The church congregants have been holding off on events since pandemic restrictions went into place, but Dobbins said Floyd’s death — and the systemic issues with bias and violence in policing that it highlights — were worth getting together, no matter the risk.

“We can’t sit inside our houses and pretend like there’s nothing we can do," Dobbins said. "The least we can do is show up and say that it’s wrong.”

More protests are scheduled in Salt Lake City and Ogden on Saturday.

Utah Against Police Brutality is hosting a “Car Caravan For Justice” event, where vehicles will circle the block around the Salt Lake City Police Department located downtown.

“We demand that killer cops be fired, charged, and jailed for their crimes We demand the body footage of the police killings of Bernardo Palacios in SLC, last weekend,” a post on the Facebook event page read. “We demand justice for George Floyd, killed in Minneapolis on Monday.”

Protesters are also planning to “Take a Knee on Washington Blvd” around 4 p.m. Friday in Ogden — where a police officer was killed in a shootout Thursday — to honor Floyd’s memory. More than 400 people have RSVP’d for the event, which will take place near the Ogden Municipal Building at 2549 Washington Blvd.

“This is a call to stand in solidarity with George’s family and the citizens of Minnesota who are mourning his tragic loss,” according to a post on the event page.

Even organizer Malik Dayo asked attendees to not speak out against Ogden police at the event and to respect their mourning of slain officer Nate Lyday.

He wrote, “Let’s remain focused on the reason for our rally which is honoring #GeorgeFloyd, standing with Minneapolis and calling attention to the need for National Police Reform.”