‘Recall Mendenhall’: Black Lives Matter Utah demands more police reform from SLC mayor
Black Lives Matter, Utah protesters stand outside the Salt Lake City County Building Thursday. (Laura Seitz, Desert News)
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SALT LAKE CITY – Black Lives Matter, Utah protesters stood on the lawn of the Salt Lake City and county building Thursday accusing Mayor Erin Mendenhall of refusing to work with an activist group calling for police reform.
But the Mendenhall office says the mayor is now working with another police oversight group in the hopes that activists advocating police reform will engage with that group.
About 50 protesters gathered in Washington Square Park on Thursday afternoon shouting “Recall Mendenhall” and other well-known refrains against police brutality such as “no justice, no peace”.
The group accused Mendenhall of refusing to work with the Community Advocates Group (CAG), an organization that has met with the Salt Lake Police Department on a regular basis over the past few years and in introducing police reform policies such as the release of body camera footage and the Publication of data on the police helped force the use of force.
“It’s a community-based group of activists and members of the local community that has had a transparent conversation with the mayor’s office. And then the mayor’s office decided to get out of those talks, which is tedious, ”said Rae Duckworth, chairman of operations for Black Live’s Utah Affair.
Earlier this week, Mendenhall and Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown announced a new crime prevention plan that has four main goals: reduce crime, improve officer response times, fill funded and unfunded sworn officer positions, and continue to build relationships with the community.
“That’s an oxymoron,” said Duckworth. “You can’t step away from a community-based conversation and then turn around and tell the press that you are working on relationship building when you are not.”
Instead of holding their regular meetings every other Thursday, members of the CAG have decided to protest in Washington Square Park until Mendenhall agrees to sit down with them again, Duckworth said.
However, the Mendenhall office said Thursday that the city had been working with the Racial Justice Commission on policing and making progress. City officials hope the CAG will continue to work with Mendenhall through this commission, the mayor’s office said.
“Much tangible progress has been made in police reform and policy with the training and work of the Police Racial Justice Commission over the past year. We plan to continue this work with the commission in the long term. ”Mendenhall’s office announced in a statement. “Salt Lake City has valued its connection with the Community (Advocates) Group, but as the Commission is mandated to continue its important and transformative work, we hope that anyone in the community who wishes to participate in this work will hear about it through them Commission will do. We hope that in the near future members of the CAG will begin to engage and work with the Racial Justice Commission in policing. “
But that is not enough for the mayor, the demonstrators emphasized on Thursday.
Carl Moore, an activist who has worked extensively with the homeless in Salt Lake City, described encounters between the police and unsecured people as “violent interaction.”
“There is an absolute war against our unprotected relatives,” he said.
Being approached by police officers can spark a post-traumatic stress disorder response in an unprotected person because it reminds them to be blamed for something they didn’t do, Moore said. People of color who are homeless are more likely to have bad experiences with the police, he added.
Moore encouraged people to continue pushing for accountability and police reform.
“There is always a way to help your relatives,” he said.
Duckworth said Mendenhall owes more to police reform activists.
“I stand here in solidarity with the victims of police brutality and their family members. My family is a family of police brutality victims … and we want justice. And we want police reform. And we think (Mendenhall) owes us an action” now that she can’t stand a conversation. “