Black Lives Matter Utah founder condemns violence, presenting police reform bill
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
BLM protests broke out in Salt Lake City on May 30 after the police officer Derek Chauvi murdered George Floyd. Chauvi and other officers arrived at the scene after a 911 call claimed Floyd had used a counterfeit $20 bill.
In response, protests ignited across the nation. Salt Lake City residents held their own protest in front of the capitol building on May 30. Eventually, the protest became violent.
Black Lives Matter Utah founder, Lex Scott, has since said the official organization had nothing to do with the protest. Scott was not even in town the night of the protest.
“It’s not okay,” Scott said in a phone interview with LiveFEED. “It’s not okay for Black Lives Matter to be held responsible for someone else’s actions. “People who are not affiliated with our organization destroyed property, ignited violence in our name and destroying our reputation. It’s sad and it is frustrating.”
On May 30, graffiti covered the outside walls of the Utah capitol building. Rioters also overturned and set fire to a cop car. Police arrested dozens of protesters, and both groups faced injuries.
Scott said: “As Black Lives Matter, we mourn broken bodies, we don’t mourn broken buildings. You can replace a building, you can wash off graffiti…but you can never replace those lives. You can replace a building.”
Jake Siolo, Salt Lake City resident, participated in the protest on May 30, but he said he remained peaceful.
“I am not justifying the violence and all that kind of stuff, but when we don’t listen to people peacefully protesting it will lead to all that [violent protests]. I think there comes a time when people get so sick of it. You can peacefully protest for so long until it happens.”
In a Salt Lake City Police Department press release from May 31, there was a call to provide any information about those who participated in “lawlessness, violence, destruction, and graffiti.”
“Utah is better than what we witnessed [May 30.] Utah is better when everyone helps. Utah is better when we’re together,” the official police statement said.
Scott founded Black Lives Matter Utah in 2014. Scott said she was inspired to get involved in the movement after the killing of Eric Garner. The New York City Police Department officer put Garner in a chokehold after arresting him for allegedly selling cigarettes.
Since then, Scott said the organization has met with the SLCPD every two weeks to talk about police reform. BLM Utah has also been heavily involved in service projects. Scott said they registered inmates to vote, fed the homeless, and delivered Christmas presents to refugees.
Plans for the future
Protesters continue to organize across the country and within the state of Utah. Scott said she has a tentative plan to organize a peaceful protest on June 10 at 7 p.m. She is hesitant because members of Black Lives Matter Utah say they do not want to be there; they are saying it is time to calm down the city.
Jake Siolo had set up his own gathering on June 1; the event attracted approximately 100 individuals who made signs and wrote messages in the fences above popular overpasses. The next day, Siolo said all posters were destroyed and taken down. He said he would go back every day if he must and put back up.
“We are just trying to get through this moment –– this historical moment that is here,” Scott said. “We have to have change this time, because if we do not get police reform this time around… I will see you here in six years.”
Scott said she wants a congressperson or senator to promise her that a police reform bill will be carried to Washington D.C. Scott even prepared a bill herself and set up a change.org petition that has acquired over 200,000 signatures; however, she said this is more of a framework than actual hopeful legislation.
“We can have protests and we can light cities on fire, but unless focus on police reform we will not create change in this country,” Scott added.
This is a developing story; check back for updates.
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Featured image courtesy of Jake Siolo.