A rally supporting Black lives and strong police oversight that called on the incoming Biden administration to focus on a “working people’s agenda” saw some of its fire tempered Monday after a snowstorm blew in.
The Freedom Road Socialist Organization and Utah Against Police Brutality organized the event, and about 60 people gathered at the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building in downtown Salt Lake City. Speakers called for more community control of police, action on climate change, immigration reform, an end to bailouts for the rich, and immediate relief for those who continue to face economic uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re here today because Joe Biden won the election, and we need to raise hell,” an organizer named Adrian, who would not provide a last name, told the crowd. “We need to remind him that hundreds of people in the U.S., probably more, are out of work, on the street, begging for help.”
After the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, organizers of Monday’s rally came prepared for potential clashes with counterprotesters. About 10 people wore bright yellow construction vests and acted as security.
“We moved it to today to hopefully avoid that,” said Emma Fryer, an organizer helming an information table at the rally. “We were going to do an Inauguration Day thing, but in hopes of avoiding clashes, we chose today. But I think things have calmed down a lot” since the insurrection earlier this month.
Fryer added that Martin Luther King Jr. Day was also an appropriate holiday to host the rally, because “we’re also here ... to celebrate his mission and talk about the things he was fighting for.”
The rallygoers waved Black Lives Matter flags and held signs calling for immigrant rights. They chanted familiar calls heard over the summer during protests against police violence, including “No justice, no peace” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, these killer cops have got to go.”
The cold, however, sapped much of the crowd’s energy.
Adrian, who appeared to be acting as the event’s emcee, led the crowd in a chant that referenced the weather. “We’re cold! We’re wet! Cancel the debt!”
A snowstorm moved in about 30 minutes into the rally, leaving organizers scrambling to cover loudspeakers and causing participants to take shelter under the federal building’s portico while uniformed police officers watched from inside.
As snow fell, a speaker named Jacari with Black Lives Matter North said, “Without justice, there will be no peace,” and quoted Martin Luther King Jr.: “Those who love peace must learn to organize as efficiently as those who love war.”
The event ended by 5 p.m., an hour after it began, without any conflict. Organizers called off a planned march and car caravan due to the cold.
To conclude the rally, Indigenous activist and Pandos chairman Carl Moore said a prayer, asking for protection from the cold and snow, freedom from oppression, and food and shelter for those who need it. He also asked that the incoming president be blessed.
The rally took place a day after an underwhelming protest at the Utah Capitol led by anti-government Boogaloo bois. Of the 15 or so protesters, eight were Boogaloos, and the rest a handful of Trump supporters who quietly waved flags for hours.
But scores of police officers and National Guard troops maintained a perimeter around the Utah Capitol. The Boogaloos called the massive law enforcement presence a “joke” and taunted officers from their vantage point south of the Capitol entrance.
Police say the heightened security — which was called for after the FBI warned of potential violence over the weekend — helped ensure the small protest stayed peaceful.
Every state is bracing for more protests leading up to Wednesday’s inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. A heavy military and police presence has been stationed in Washington, D.C., ever since a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying the presidential election results. That same day, hundreds of pro-Trump activists protested the election results at the Utah Capitol.