Thousands gather in Salt Lake City for joint Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights rally

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rachel Alder addresses over 1,000 Pride for Black Lives Matter supporters at Liberty Park, Sunday, June 14, 2020. Pride for Black Lives Matter rallied for over three hours before marching throughout Salt Lake City to join the Las Vidas Negras Importan Rally at Washington Square.

Essie Shaw is tired. And so is Rachel Alder. And Maren Caldwell. And Billy Palmer.

But none of them, nor the couple of thousand protesters who gathered at Liberty Park on Sunday and marched to Washington Square in support of the LQBTQ and Black Lives Matter causes, gave any indication they’d relent. No indication that the fight for the rights of black people, LGBTQ people, people of color or other historically marginalized communities was over.

“This is not the kind of tired that a spa day can cure. This is not the kind of tired that a good night’s rest can take care of. This is not the kind of tired that performative ally-ship can heal,” Shaw said. “This tiredness is deep and it’s painful and we have to take care of ourselves.”

Protesters assembled in Salt Lake City for the 15th time in 16 days to express frustration and outrage over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, as well as past high-profile incidents where police killed black people.

Sunday’s protest was a combined event for supporters of the LGBTQ community and Black Lives Matter. Fourteen people — all black, some LGBTQ — spoke to the crowd at Liberty Park.

Rachel Alder, a college student studying neuroscience and social work, has spent time working with victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. She expressed exasperation with seeing name after name in the media of black people who were killed.

She asked the crowd why it took Floyd’s name for people to react en masse.

“I’m tired of having to fight and I’m tired of having to defend parts of me that I cannot choose or change,” said Alder, who is black, Native American and part of the LGBTQ community. “That has got to stop.”

One speaker, Maren Caldwell, reminded protesters that just in the past week, two black transgender women were killed — Riah Milton in Liberty Township, Ohio, and Dominique Fells in Philadelphia. Caldwell’s body shook as she spoke of them and she held back tears.

Caldwell, the co-chairwoman of the LGBTQ committee for Black Lives Matter Utah, spoke for about two minutes, and incorporated that time into her comments.

“What can I say in two minutes to make you understand why I’m here, why my life matters, why their lives matter,” Caldwell said, “when eight minutes and 46 seconds wasn’t enough for George Floyd?”

Billy Palmer, an associate producer at KRCL, said he saw live video of the protest while sitting at home and felt compelled to show up. He also expressed feeling “tired” of seeing the news about black people being killed.

Palmer added that just four years ago, it was controversial to say “black lives matter,” and that it isn’t at all difficult to be “pro-black.”

“I’m tired of being the phoenix that rises from the ashes,” Palmer said. “I want to fly.”

Gaby Vincent and Tziarra King of the Utah Royals FC attended the protest. Both are black, and Vincent is part of the LGBTQ community.

Vincent said it’s “clear” the country doesn’t support people in the black and LGBTQ communities, and she wants to make a difference.

“I feel like it’s my duty to use my platform to support that and do what I can to get these laws changed, to get the system changed,” Vincent said.

King said she considers herself an ally of the LGBTQ community and was proud to be there supporting Vincent. She added that she was there in support of both movements.

“Without a doubt, these two movements overlap each other and it’s important to acknowledge the intersectionality that a lot of black people face in both of these groups,” King said.

There was some discussion about the recent call to “defund the police,” calls to shift some police funding to social programs. Karen Kelly, who was announced as the first black female police officer in Utah, said she did not support that idea.

Kelly, who according to her LinkedIn page started working for Salt Lake City police in 1988 and left in 1999, said police officers need more training and black people should “comply” and not “push the issue” if stopped by police.

“I believe that a lot of police officers, they have good intentions, but they’re scared,” said Kelly, who now works for Odyssey House. “And when you fear something, you have to kill something.”

One protester, who was standing in the front of the crowd, turned her back on Kelly during part of her remarks and shook her head in disagreement several times.

Lex Scott, a leader of Black Lives Matter Utah, disagreed with Kelly after leading chants of “black lives matter” and “no justice, no peace.”

“Black people do not need to comply for us to not experience violence by police,” Scott said. “It is protect and serve, not comply or die.”