Hundreds of people showed up to a virtual Salt Lake City Council meeting that lasted well into the night Tuesday.
Most commented on racial injustice, criticized the city’s response to recent protests, and asked elected officials to redirect police department funding to transportation, affordable housing and other community services. Many also criticized the weeklong curfew Mayor Erin Mendenhall imposed Monday.
The mayor reports about 200 people commented, although some who signed up to speak left the meeting before it concluded. Nearly all wanted to cut the police department’s city budget share by at least $30 million, if not defund the police force completely.
Residents were responding to a nearly $1 million proposed amendment to the current city budget for overtime incurred by police, firefighters and dispatch as well as for recommended funds for police de-escalation and implicit bias training.
Also at issue is the city’s forthcoming budget, full of cuts due to the pandemic, that proposes a 2.6% increase to the police budget general fund. The mayor’s recommendation includes more than $84 million in police department expenditures, up from $82 million last year and $74 million the year before.
Some became emotional as they described harassment, arrests and injuries sustained by themselves and friends during protests over the past few days.
Council members Amy Fowler, Ana Valdemoros and Andrew Johnston had clearly displayed “Black Lives Matter” signs or badges during the meeting. All members became visibly fatigued as the meeting dragged on, and numerous commenters criticized the council and mayor for appearing bored, looking at their phones or seeming disinterested.
Participants wrapped up their comments minutes after midnight Wednesday.
“We appreciate all the public comment. Those will all be part of the public record,” Council Chairman Chris Wharton said.