Protesters march again through Salt Lake City, as mayor and police chief meet with community leaders

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Victoria Crosby with Black Lives Matter receives a hand shake from officer M. Acosta as demonstrators protest against police brutality on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in downtown Salt Lake City, as an 8 p.m. weeklong curfew remains in order.

Victoria Crosby stood with a megaphone in hand in front of hundreds of kneeling protesters. She urged them away from violence.

She also wanted to achieve one small thing: She wanted law enforcement to take a knee with her, a small sign to show they heard her — and the crowd’s — pleas for equitable policing, for less brutality. But she didn’t have much hope of success with members of the National Guard. She’d been told they were ordered not to kneel.

"But that does not mean that you cannot step up and shake my hand," she said, before approaching the uniformed men with her hand drawn.

They accepted. The crowd cheered.

And ultimately, the National Guard troops did drop with Crosby to one knee — the thing she thought they’d never do.

“I came out here to make a change,” Crosby said afterword, her voice breaking with emotion. “And that’s what I did. And my heart feels good about that."

That was how much of Tuesday night’s protests went — they were peaceful. Where protesters had flipped a car and set it ablaze Saturday, traffic zipped by as normal Tuesday. Trains kept running.

The group of several hundred protesters began walking around Washington Square early Tuesday evening, occasionally chanting and cheering when drivers honked at the procession.

Protesters marched back and forth between the park’s corners, pausing to chant “kneel with us" when they reached the law enforcement officers posted on the periphery. Passing by a group of National Guard troops, demonstrator and former Air Force member Joshua Fereday commented, “This isn’t why I was deployed.”

The Murray resident said he believes the criminal justice system is skewed to protect law enforcement from consequences of their wrongdoing. That’s not the code he followed when he was in the military, said Fereday, who marched in his military fatigues.

“If a bullet left my weapon, I was accountable for it,” he said. “Police officers can pull a weapon. They can shoot. They can beat. They can pepper spray without consequence. That’s not America. That shouldn’t be America.”

Demonstrator Hasson Davis helped lead Tuesday’s rally — the latest in a string of protests in Salt Lake City and around the nation following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. Speaking through a megaphone, Davis asked law enforcement to stop treating him and other black people like animals.

“We have no reason to protest when we are treated fairly," Davis said.

Deonno Avila, another participant, said his family is Mexican Chicano and has experienced law enforcement bias in Utah.

“We have always seen a racism and bigotry in the police department, whether it’s being pulled over for just the way we look, or anything else,” said Avila, of Salt Lake City.

Leaders of the demonstration urged participants to remain peaceful, with one Black Lives Matter advocate warning that anyone acting violent would be removed from the assembly. But they spoke forcefully through chants and handwritten signs that read, “I can’t breathe,” and, “Don’t shoot." At one point, several hundred knelt facing police officers and raised their arms in a gesture of surrender.

The rally thinned by 8 p.m., with the onset of the curfew ordered by Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall in the wake of Saturday’s violent demonstrations. A handful of marchers headed up State Street toward Capitol Hill but appeared to disperse along the way.

Earlier Tuesday, Salt Lake City police officials and the mayor met to talk about law enforcement policies with community leaders, including prominent African Americans.

Reporters were permitted into the meeting room as the session was winding down. Chief Mike Brown asked the gathered group to reassure the community that the Salt Lake City Police Department is seeking to learn and grow.

"And we have confidence that the things that you saw happen in Minneapolis are not going to happen here," he said. "Because, right now, there's a lot of fear."

Addressing the media after the meeting, state Rep. Sandra Hollins, the state’s only black lawmaker, said she learned during the session that Salt Lake City police are not allowed to kneel on a person’s neck as a form of restraint — the way a Minneapolis officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd before his death.

While she appreciated Tuesday’s dialogue, the protests point to the feeling of voicelessness that many experience, she said, referencing the African proverb that a “child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.”

“I think that’s what’s going on. I think our youth are not feeling that they are being heard,” Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, said. “And this is a part of the consequence of them not being heard.”

Salt Lake City is one of dozens of U.S. cities where multi-day protests have taken place in reaction to the Floyd’s death. Floyd was handcuffed when now-former officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. He died later that night at the hospital. Chauvin has been charged with murder.

Protesters in Salt Lake City took to the streets for the first time Saturday morning. As they day wore on at least 1,000 came out to the Utah State Capitol and the area around police headquarters and Library Square. They flipped one police cruiser and set it ablaze, another car — belonging to a man who threatened protests with a bow and arrow — was also overturned and set on fire. Officers arrested 46 people, and 21 officers were treated for injuries, mostly heat-related.

Kamaal Ahmad, Weber State University football coach, left Tuesday’s listening session appreciative of the open communication with Salt Lake City leaders. Over the weekend, Ahmad had posted a widely-shared video on social media expressing dismay at the violence that had erupted, and he reiterated those sentiments to reporters Tuesday.

I’ve been to legitimate protests. That wasn’t one,” he said. “That was a bunch of agitators that wanted to cause harm.”

Ahmad said he’s helping organize a peaceful demonstration Saturday in downtown Salt Lake City.

In response to Saturday’s violence, Mendenhall enacted a citywide curfew that ended Monday morning. Then on Monday, she announced a weeklong curfew that begins each night at 8 p.m, and ends at 6 a.m. Protesters also gathered Monday and challenged that curfew, staying out until about 10 p.m., when a demonstrator negotiated with police to let the remaining crowd leave without getting arrested.

Monday’s protest stayed mostly peaceful, but officials reported someone had shattered the window of an armored vehicle. Court records show 18 protesters were arrested and booked into Salt Lake County jail, including one who’d been carrying a loaded handgun.

Police also made two other protest-related arrests: A man who’d allegedly been making threats to kill police and was found apparently on his way to the protest with four guns, and a man who lives near the protest site who fired an assault rifle-style gun in the air during the demonstration.

Salt Lake City police reported they’d made 16 total arrests, mostly for failure to disperse. The Utah Highway Patrol arrested two people.

Late Tuesday, the police and Highway Ppatrol said three people were arrested. More protests are planned in the days to come.