Citizens rally to ‘defund the police’ in Salt Lake City

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Utah residents took to the streets to rally against funding the police, Saturday.

According to event organizers, Decarcerate Utah, the rally is in response to Salt Lake Mayor Erin Mendenhall’s proposed FY budget for 2021-22.

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The event began on May 29 around 2:00 p.m. with participants who voiced opposition to the proposed 5% increase to the police department budget.

The group gathered with members of the community on the west side of the City Council Building and featured speakers from other grassroots organizers in the community who also support defunding the police department. 

“On Monday, May 3rd, organizers within the group posted demands to cut the department’s budget in half and cut the personnel in half, and to use the savings diverted from the police department’s budget to invest in under-resourced services that the Salt Lake community needs, like housing and mental health resources,” Decarcerate Utah tells ABC4.

According to the organization, “in an attempt to placate protests last summer, Mayor Erin Mendenhall and the Salt Lake City Council agreed to take a closer look at the police department’s budget through a zero-based budget exercise, created a Racial Equity in Policing Commission, and placed $2.8 million in a holding account. Since then, despite countless unified public outcries to defund the police department, there have been zero recommendations or actions to reduce funding.”  

“The police do not prevent, solve, or heal our community from harm. Instead of relying on them to respond to calls, Decarcerate Utah believes in empowering people who make up the fabric of the Salt Lake community by investing more resources into mental health providers, housing services and social workers, violence interventionists—even by directly empowering community members, since neighbors, family and friends are more likely to be actual first responders. The group believes that the city should invest resources to create non-police intervention programs in SLC to reduce harm in schools, neighborhoods, workplaces, and homes,” they add.

The group’s bold demand to cut the police department’s budget comes with the recognition that in order to “reduce police violence, racial inequity, and other forms of oppression created by the criminal justice system, we need to make dramatic changes to our city’s budget and advocate funding for under-resourced community services.”

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