46 Arrested, 21 Officers Hurt In Downtown SLC Protest
May 31, 2020, 9:11 AM | Updated: 7:51 pm
(Shara Park, KSL TV)
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – After what began as a peaceful protest in downtown Salt Lake City escalated into violence, vandalism and looting, officials said 46 people were arrested and 21 officers were injured.
Chief Mike Brown with the Salt Lake City Police Department said most of the arrests were for failure to disperse after a citywide curfew was initiated.
Thousands of protesters gathered around 400 South Saturday, first near police headquarters at the Public Safety Building, and later near Washington Square and the Salt Lake City Public Library.
We are currently working to identify other individuals that we will be screening charges against for crimes of vandalism, assault, and theft.
— SLC Police Dept. (@slcpd) May 31, 2020
The protests began around 11 a.m. Although streets were blocked and there were signs of vandalism, it did not turn violent until some flipped a Salt Lake Police squad car over and lit it on fire.
Conditions quickly escalated. Several protesters were seen on live television smashing windows and causing other damage.
Police officers were not seen for the first couple hours of the protest, and began appearing after it turned violent.
Salt Lake Mayor Erin Mendenhall said it was strategic to wait and send officers in later. Officials said people had a right to gather, and they felt if officers were to appear, it would have incited further conflicts.
Struggling to find the words to describe what I witnessed tonight. What began as a peaceful protest turned into chaos & violence; windows smashed, businesses looted, cars overturned. #SLC is now filled w/trash & graffiti. I’m grateful to be safe, but I end this night feeling sad. pic.twitter.com/bjSw1QljsH
— Shara Park (@KSLSharaPark) May 31, 2020
Over several hours, officers from around the Wasatch Front began gathering in riot gear and forming defensive lines.
Hundreds of water bottles, rocks and other projectiles were thrown at officers.
Mayor Mendenhall issued the citywide curfew to begin at 8 p.m., running through Monday at 6 a.m.
Officers began advancing their line into the crowd around 8:45 p.m. The line moved slowly and methodically, until thousands of of protesters turned into hundreds, and then dozens. Around 11 p.m. the streets were mostly cleared.
Chief Brown said the most severely injured police officer was attacked by a man who hit the officer in the back of the head with a baseball bat. The officer was wearing head protection, but was still received treatment.
The officer’s exact condition was not known.
In addition to the arrests for failure to disperse, Chief Brown said several people were taken into custody for assaulting officers.
Investigators were looking through video and working to identify other individuals who would likely face additional charges.