POLICE

Protest groups respond to police shutdown of camp-out in Washington Square

Jan 6, 2020, 2:08 PM | Updated: 2:54 pm

(Photo credit: KSLTV.com)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — After 17 protesters were arrested at a planned camp-out in downtown Salt Lake City’s Washington Square, protest groups are responding with demands for “better treatment of unsheltered people,” according to a press release sent to KSL on Monday.

The camp-out began Friday night, after a protest group coined “Take Shelter Coalition” submitted a formal list of demands to the city earlier that day.

“Our aim is to improve conditions for our unsheltered neighbors who are experiencing harassment by police simply for trying not to freeze in the city’s harsh winters,” the statement said.

The Take Shelter Coalition is comprised of a range of local community organizers, including CivilRiot, Democratic Socialists of Salt Lake, For The People, Freedom Road Socialist Organization and others. Before Washington Square, the group held public rallies, submitted letters to representatives and engaged in conversations with the homeless population to address their needs.

“The occupation at Washington Square was formed out of direct conversations with our unsheltered friends,” the statement said. “The aim of the occupation was to draw more attention to the terrible and unfair experiences forced on the homeless community and to continue providing food and other basic needs to as many as we could.”

Police clear the park

Police responded to the camp-out Friday by clearing the park once it reached the designated curfew.

Four people were arrested and taken to jail while another 13 got citations. Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said his officers acted with restraint when they cleared protesters out of their camp near the County Building.

“We were told that some unsheltered people along 500 South were woken up very early (Friday) morning and were told to move to Washington Square,” Salt Lake police media director Christina Judd said to KSL.com.

“After two days, the protesters were still unwilling to meet with the administration, and it was determined that we needed to enforce park curfew.”

Around 11 p.m. Friday, over 100 officers in riot gear and civilian staff cleared out the square and removed about 100 protesters from an “occupy style protest,” according to Brown.

‘Take Shelter Coalition’ responds

In the press release, the group said the camp-out was formed in response to the closure of the Road Home downtown shelter and what the group calls the prevalent housing crisis in the city.

“The closure of the Road Home downtown shelter has reduced the number of shelter beds available on any given night by hundreds,” according to the statement. “While the police have claimed that the shelters are not full we know from our daily work with the unsheltered community that the shelters are full and that this is a direct result of the closure of the Road Home and reduction in the number of beds.

“There is not enough space in the current shelters for the community in Salt Lake City,” the statement read.

However, Brown said this argument of “not enough space” isn’t accurate.

“At the time we began this operation, there were — and we confirmed this — 74 beds in the shelter,” Brown said.

Protesters said they were trying to give a voice to the homeless through the demonstration. They argue that the camp-out wasn’t disruptive until the process of removal began.

“During the occupation, we developed an efficient system for basic sanitation needs and regularly changed the trash cans near our camping area,” according to the press release. “In contrast to the claims of the Salt Lake City Police Department, the camp only became a mess when the riot squad trampled and tore the camp apart.”

Protesters’ demands

The group said their work toward “justice for the unsheltered community” is not over. In their response, they made the following list of demands for the city:

  • Open a new downtown shelter.
  • Have, at a minimum, the equivalent number of beds lost in the closure of the downtown shelter made readily available and accessible.
  • No arrests, tickets, or harassment for campers.
  • Change the existing legislation to allow for the new centers to have more beds.
  • Free public transit fare for all people who stay in shelters.

Today’s Top Stories

Police

Photo of a SLCPD cruiser...
Devin Oldroyd

SLCPD arrest suspect following “highly coordinated” pursuit

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Following a highly coordinated and long search, the Salt Lake City Police Department safely arrested a 22-year-old suspect. According to a press release, Bhode Smith was booked into the Salt Lake County Metro Jail on charges of Failure to Respond to an Officer’s Signal to Stop, Failure to Stop at […]
1 day ago
Image of the crash that killed two people in West Valley City on 12/3/22 (Photo courtesy of Doris S...
Chandler Holt

2 dead after crash into parked box truck

Two people died following a crash into a parked box truck in West Valley City on Saturday. 
1 day ago
Flowers and stuffed animals are lined up outside a sign along Pullman Road in Moscow, Idaho, to pay...
Elizabeth Wolfe and Eric Levenson, CNN

‘Sketched out’ University of Idaho students return to campus from break with still no arrest in quadruple killings

More than two weeks since the deaths of 4 students near University of Idaho. With no suspect or arrest, "people are kind of sketched out" as they return from Thanksgiving break
1 day ago
false lockdown...
Devin Oldroyd

Lehi building placed on false lockdown after report of unconcealed gun

A Lehi building was placed on a false lockdown following a report of a man with an unconcealed firearm. There was determined to be no threat at the scene.
2 days ago
Holiday Police Pay-it-Forward event....
Waverly Golden

Salt Lake City Police Department hosts holiday Pay-it-Forward event

Salt Lake City Police Department along with SLC School District paired 50 children with a police officer for a holiday shopping experience.
2 days ago
Four Dead University of Idaho...
Aya Elamroussi, CNN

Authorities swat down rumors surrounding unsolved killings of 4 University of Idaho students

Authorities in a small Idaho city that had not recorded a murder in years are urging the public to be vigilant against rumors and conjectures surrounding the unsolved killings of four college students last month.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Protest groups respond to police shutdown of camp-out in Washington Square