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City Officials Assess Damage To Downtown After Weekend Protests

Men in orange vests outside building
Jon Reed/KUER
A cleanup crew surveys the damage on the Salt Lake City Justice Court building, which had several broken windows and graffiti.

Updated 9:47 a.m. MDT 6/1/2020

Salt Lake City officials launched a massive cleanup effort on Sunday, the day after intense protests through downtown Salt Lake City left a wake of damage, including spray painted graffiti on the State Capitol, smashed windows and overturned and burned two cars, including a police cruiser. 

The total cost and extent of the damage was still being assessed as of Sunday, officials said, who hailed residents’ efforts to aid in cleanup efforts while vowing to investigate who was responsible. A spokeswoman with the mayor’s office said 12 windows were shattered at the City and County Building, several more at the Public Safety Building and most of the front windows of the Salt Lake City Courts Building. 

“Peaceful protest will always have a place in our community,” Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement released Sunday. “But the events of yesterday were beyond the pale. I was greatly troubled to see the vandalism carried out on the Capitol building, public spaces and private property in our downtown area.”

What started as a protest against police violence in the aftermath of the recent in-custody death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, turned volatile Saturday afternoon. Violent confrontations involving police and demonstrators spurred Herbert to activate the National Guard and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall to enact a citywide curfew starting 8 p.m. Saturday.

With the curfew in effect, the streets had calmed by early Sunday morning and crews — including a number of volunteers — were out to clean the wreckage. 

“I’ve been overwhelmed by an outpouring of love for our city,” Mendenhall told reporters Sunday morning. “Residents, fellow cities and community members and organizations have offered to volunteer clean up and are helping to put our city back together.” 

Mendenhall said people even came out in the middle of the night to collect heaps of trash. Graffiti removal teams from other cities around the Salt Lake Valley had also come out to help, but it will still take several days to fully recover, she said.

Man with hose washes wall
Credit Jon Reed/KUER
Salt Lake resident Don Gamble stopped his motorcycle ride Sunday morning to help clean graffiti on the grounds of the State Capitol building.

Salt Lake resident Don Gamble stopped his Harley by the Capitol when he saw the graffiti, and picked up a power washer to help out.

“I’ve been watching it on TV as of [Saturday] night,” he said. “It just disgusts me that my tax money pays for these buildings and people have the right to destroy them.”

Still, Mendenhall said people shouldn’t necessarily come out in droves. City officials in a web post suggested other ways to help restore the city, and stressed that Salt Lake is still in the “orange” reopening phase of COVID-19. They asked that volunteers wear masks and gloves, and remain at least 6 feet away from anyone who is not part of their household. 

“Right now, frankly we don’t want thousands of people coming into the downtown core at once,” Mendenhall said. “That is antithetic to the curfew that we have in place.”

Cleanup efforts, however, were one of the exempted activities from the city’s curfew, which forbid people from being out in public in Salt Lake City until 6 a.m. Monday. Volunteers were allowed to gather in small groups to help out. 

But a planned all-day Facebook event to organize thousands of people for a mass effort Monday was cancelled in response to the mayor’s concerns about bringing too many people in at one time. 

More suggestions for how to help restore the city are available on the city’s website. In addition to cleaning efforts, Mendenhall suggested supporting a local business in the downtown area.

Jon reports on quality of life issues, education and the economy
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