ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 News) – In contrast to the violent and destructive riots that occurred in Salt Lake City this weekend, officials say the protests in Southern Utah remained relatively peaceful.
But Troy Anderson, founder of the newly-established Southern Utah chapter of Black Lives Matter, tells ABC4 News there is much more the community can learn about systemic racism in collaboration with local police and city leaders.
Addressing dozens who gathered to kneel in protest at the St. George City offices, Anderson called on police in Southern Utah to curb unwarranted arrests and traffic stops he believes may have been racially motivated.
“To some degree we’re all enablers of the system, and I think that’s where we have to start: looking at ourselves,” Anderson said.
St. George Police Officer Tiffany Atkin tells ABC4 News that all law enforcement in the community want an open dialogue and ask that anyone with concerns of racial injustices please reach out.
Atkin said her department is thankful that locals protested peacefully.
“The community doesn’t want to burn this city down and they don’t want people hurt,” Atkin said. “Rather than focus on Antifa or some other, I want to focus on the fact that we live in a great community with great people who may feel frustrated but are going about it the right away.”
Utah Black Lives Matter representatives say they do not condone violence. Anderson said he believes the public’s focus on the destruction and looting has become a deflection of the underlying issues marginalized groups are facing and the pain they feel.
“Our country is not gonna thrive or survive if we keep living in a system that is based on white supremacy,” Anderson said.
City leaders in Southern Utah said they’re ready to move the conversation forward and discuss what the chapter feels will be necessary to improve conditions for marginalized communities, whether that involves more advanced training of law enforcement or learning within the community.
“I thought the protests went very well over the weekend here in St. George,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said. “Those participating were respectful and no laws were broken.”
Pike added, “I felt that it was important for me to go out there and listen to those who may be feeling frustrated and commend them for protesting and demonstrating peacefully. People want their voices heard.”