Public defender and U law grad arrested in Pro-Palestinian protest

Apr 30, 2024, 10:32 PM | Updated: May 1, 2024, 8:08 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A pro-Palestinian protester who was arrested at the University of Utah on Monday night says she has no regrets for what she did.

Hannah Sakalla, 33, graduated from the university law school last year and is now working as a public defender in Salt Lake, is also Palestinian and believes the U. is to blame for the arrests.

According to the university, 19 people were arrested; four were students, and one was a university employee.

The university said two police officers were injured during the pro-Palestinian protest.

“We understood there was risk, but sometimes change has to come in uncomfortable ways,” Sakalla said.

She said police warned the protesters several times to clear the area or they would be arrested. Sakalla joined arms with other protesters and refused to leave.

4 U of U students, 1 employee arrested during pro-Palestinian protest

“The cuffs definitely hurt sitting for hours in the same uncomfortable position. After being body slammed my shoulder was sore. I have a bruise on my leg.  My clothes are ripped,” she said.

Sakalla spent the night at the Salt Lake County Jail. She was arrested for trespassing, disorderly conduct and failure to disburse.

She has a good reason to support the pro-Palestinian movement that has risen at college campuses across the country. She said her grandma and uncle were both killed in November by Israeli air strikes in Gaza.

Palestinian protest

A young man holds a Palestinian flag during a demonstration to show support for Palestine at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Monday, April 29, 2024. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

“It’s heart-wrenching for me, so participating in these is really important to me,” she said. “I am upset at the university. The university made this call. This was their property; this was their call.” 

Organizers of the protest agree saying there was no reason for this protest to turn out the way it did.

Gaby Merida, who is with the campus organization, Mecha de U of U, helped organize the event. She said there was no reason for police to act the way they did.

“Things were going well, it was peaceful,” she said. “It got pretty violently pretty quickly. All we were doing was camping out, making our demands known. I would say it’s on the University of Utah for not protecting students’ rights of free speech.”

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Public defender and U law grad arrested in Pro-Palestinian protest