I’ve been to a few protests in SLC recently. They’ve been organized to raise awareness about police violence in general, and in regards to our local and national victims. They’ve been good, enthusiastic groups, but a bit on the small side. One of my fears about gatherings like this, is that if they are too small, they are easily marginalized by the media and citizens in general. A critical mass must be reached before real traction occurs.
The hundredth monkey effect is a studied phenomenon in which a new behavior or idea is claimed to spread rapidly by unexplained means from one group to all related groups once a critical number of members of one group exhibit the new behavior or acknowledge the new idea.
A protest was organized for 29 November to stand in solidarity with Michael Brown, Ferguson, and our local victims of police violence: Dillon Taylor, Danielle Willard, Kelly Simons, Darien Hunt, Joey Tucker, and dozens of others. This is the scene that I walked into:
Hundreds of enthusiastic supporters occupied the space in front of the Federal Building in downtown SLC.
Speeches were given by many, with former SLC Mayor Rocky Anderson giving a speech that was stirring not just because of the content, but in the context of this being a former SLC Mayor who has dropped hints of running again. Rocky Anderson as Mayor – this would be a platform for serious change in the police department.
As the rally concluded, one of the organizers announced that an unplanned, unpermitted (read: illegal) march was going to take place. “Participate at your own risk”, the crowd was given fair warning. I fully expected at least a third of those assembled to politely make their way back to their cars and to disappear. I did not see a single person defect. The whole mob poured out onto State Street, took up all of the south bound lanes, and began marching toward the Matheson Courthouse.
After the march had proceeded for two blocks, 4 motorcycle police officers arrived. I wasn’t sure what was about to happen. I was fully expecting them to contain the crowd and force them off the busy thoroughfare and possibly make a few arrests.
Instead, they tried to anticipate where the protesters would be marching, so that they could block off traffic from all directions. Soon the parade made it’s way to the Matheson Courthouse in Downtown SLC. By this time, hundreds of people driving through downtown saw – and had to wait for – the protesters.
The march proceeded east on 400 South, heading toward the SLC Police Station.
Upon arriving at the front door of the police station, a short speech was made, and the march continued on a route back toward the Federal Building.
Again – more assistance from police. I spoke to one officer, he seemed pleasant and completely unaffected by it all. “We’re just trying to keep everyone safe”, he said.
As the protesters moved up 200 East and along 200 South (both very busy roads in downtown SLC), they took up both sides of the street, rendering them temporarily unusable to cars.
In summary: It was encouraging to see how large the protest was. Seeing everyone pour into the streets in an act of civil disobedience was thrilling. I think there is something to civil disobedience – it forces people to take notice of what’s going on. It becomes newsworthy. Media coverage is ESSENTIAL in taking control of the dialogue and therefore, building foundations for a lasting solution. There is a difference between civil disobedience and vandalism. I will not condone the destruction of private property. Seeing the police swoop in to essentially HELP the protesters out was very cool. They could easily have blockaded them and made an attempt to make them go away, but they facilitated this march that was massively critical of them individually and collectively. Kudos to the Salt Lake City Police Department. This is good policing. This is what everyone wants from the police and I hope at some point we can find a way to incentivise that.
For those of you that are interested in doing something more than just sitting at home being angry, please take a moment to read over my proposal for a way that citizens may become part of a solution: http://www.paulduane.net/2014/11/brainstorm-a-rebellion-against-police-brutality-based-in-positivity/