Protest for police reform in Cottonwood HeightsJun 22, 2020 11:00AM ● By Cassie Goff
Counter-protesters show support for the local police department while protestors push for police reform.
By Cassie Goff | [email protected]
The plaza of Cottonwood Heights City Hall (2277 Bengal Blvd.) was a sea of Black Lives Matter and Thin Blue Line flags; Police Reform and Support the CHPD protest signs; raised voices and honks on June 15. Many residents showed up in support of the Rally for Police Reform event while many others counter-protested showing support of the CHPD (Cottonwood Heights Police Department).
The Cottonwood Heights Rally for Police Reform began with local activist Carl Moore providing a land acknowledgment for Ute, Shoshone and Goshute land. “I want to remind us that because we live on indigenous land, we have to respect the indigenous voices when it comes to social structure, environmental structure, and how those things intertwine.” Moore then gave a blessing beginning with a four-direction song.
Former owner of the Canyon Inn and resident Kimmie Stojack spoke next. “What is protect and serve?” she asked. “Protect and serve does not mean to shoot a teenage boy in the back and kill him. Protect and serve does not mean to run a family of color out of our city. Protect and serve does not mean to harass our city councilwoman. Protect and serve does not mean to violate one’s civil rights.”
“This has been going on in our community for over 10 years,” continued Stojack. “We as citizens of Cottonwood Heights are done with the harassment, intimidation, and abuse of power.”
Civil Right and Criminal Defense Attorney Tyler Ayres spoke next. “I’ve been standing up against police for 20 years. I have brought lawsuits against almost every police agency in this valley. The reason that we sue and the reason we are demonstrating today is one thing: equal protection under the law.”
Ayres discussed a few aspects he believes effects equal protection today. He mentioned that the number one rule for officers is to come back alive. “I have to place my client’s interest above my interests,” Ayres said. “Why don’t we hold cops to that?”
In addition, he discussed qualified immunity in relation to equal protection under the law. He concluded by saying “we are not going away this time. This does not end without major reform. It’s time for black lives to matter within this country.”
Former resident Tiffany James was joined by her family as she retold the story of her son’s death. On May 29, 2018, Zane was shot two blocks away from their home by an off-duty officer. “We had to find him in the hospital after my husband showed up (at City Hall) looking for help. We watched as our son died, paralyzed, not able to speak to us, with a ventilator in his mouth.”
“We are a family that knows this has been going on since our country was founded. They have been living with this their whole lives and now we know what it feels like. And I won’t condone it and my family won’t condone it. We are not anti-police. We are anti-police harassment.”
James, her family, and Zane’s teammates set up Zane’s old hockey net for attendees to take slap shots for police reform.
Former resident of Cottonwood Heights Margarita Satini emphasized James’s point, “This is a police reform rally. Not a defund the police.”
She discussed what she hopes reform will look like, with an independent citizens review board, more training for officers in implicit bias and de-escalation. “Talk to your city council members and mayor,” she urged, “organize, mobilize, have those hard conversations, get your community together.”
“I just want to matter,” Satini said. “I want my grandson to matter. I want people who look like me to have equal protection. I’m here to bring voice to the people who are voiceless.”
She ended her speech by thanking “the officers who try very hard to be kind and be protectors of this city.”
Utah Black Roundtable President Darlene McDonald gave a history lesson for her speech. She began by alluding to the “Andy Griffiths Show.”
“Let’s think about community policing. Andy knew everyone in the community and everyone knew Andy. He did not walk the streets with a gun. Community policing is something that is not equal and it doesn’t exist in every single community in America. When the police was formed, it was to capture runaway slaves.”
“This is the week that African Americans call Juneteenth. On June 19, 1865, General Granger read a federal order that freed the slaves. It took the 13th amendment to free all the slaves.”
McDonald then discussed convict leasing. “Our prison systems are the new Jim Crow, they are the new slavery. $80 billion a year goes into our prison system. One percent of that is for rehabilitation. If you take a fraction of that $80 billion and divest from prison systems to drug treatment centers, then we could actually have a society for everyone.”
Community Activist Daisy Thomas discussed how she didn’t want to enable the current system anymore.
“We often talk about how officers put their lives on the line every day. There are inherent risks to working in law enforcement, and officers accept those risks. There are risks that our black and brown neighbors didn’t accept when in proximity to law enforcement.”
“It was the CHPD that helped deescalate some harassment I was receiving. But I cannot ignore what the marginalized communities members have faced from the same police force. We can accept nothing less than equal protection under the law. I have heard countless accounts of harassment and violence from our ethnic communities here in Utah by those same police forces. This is a dynamic of an abusive relationship and we are enablers if we do not work to stop it.”
“People have demanded justice and we will have it,” Thomas said and suggested that officers should invest in the needs of communities, restorative justice should be encouraged, qualified immunity should be ended, and for-profit prisons should be shut down.
Black Lives Matter Utah Chapter leader Lex Scott spoke last. “We have been meeting with Salt Lake Police for three years about police reform.” In those three years, they were able to get a “complaint” button on the Salt Lake Police’s website, implement three different types of de-escalation training as well as diversity training, and replace 70 lethal shotguns with less-than-lethal shotguns.
After outlining accomplishments, Scott discussed what they are hoping for. “We want data collection. When we say we are pulled over five times the rate of white people and we are given higher sentences for lesser crimes, we want that data. We want police to track the race, gender, and age of every person they pull over and arrest. We want that nationwide.”
She urged everyone to go to www.blacklivesmatterutah.com and sign the petition for police reform. “We want one million signatures!”
“This movement has been peaceful. It has never been about violence. And we are going to change this entire system.”