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Protesters swarm into Inland Port Board meeting, temporarily shut meeting down

(Photo: James Wooldridge, Deseret News, file)

UTAH STATE CAPITOL – “Abort the port!”

Those are the words shouted by environmentalists at the Utah State Capitol today as they tried to shut down another public meeting of the Inland Port Board. However, board members appear to have seen this disruption coming.

Before the meeting had started, environmental groups like SLC Air Protectors announced they would be holding a “silent protest.”  They arrived with medical masks with large black X’s on their faces.  Darin Mann with SLC Air Protectors says they chose to wear the masks, “To demonstrate how the public has been repeatedly shut out of the process.”

Within seconds of the start of the meeting, protestors swarmed the board members and when Highway Patrol troopers pushed them back, the chants began.

Mann and other environmentalists believe the inland cargo hub will cause a large amount of environmental problems, including adding more pollution to Utah’s air.

“We don’t need the inland port.  That land is already being used by wildlife,” Mann says.

The Utah Highway Patrol reports three people were escorted out of the meeting, cited and released.  However, one man, who has been identified by the Deseret News as Ethan Peterson, handcuffed himself to a door and wouldn’t comply with officers when the cuffs were removed.  He was arrested and taken to the Salt Lake County Jail.

Board members knew there could be potential problems.  A previous meeting in Rose Park had to end early after similar protests.  Board Spokesperson Aimee Edwards says a small group of people brought in a bullhorn and shouted down the public meeting, back then.

“Unfortunately, we were not able to anyone’s comments that attended,” she says.

Edwards says these protests go beyond being disruptive.  She claims people who attended the last meeting didn’t feel safe.  So, they held the meeting where they could have the extra protection of the UHP.

Edwards adds, “Our chair explained they could be heard during the public comment period, but we were unable to conduct any business.  So, we adjourned.”

Within roughly 15 minutes of the protest, the meeting restarted and the board selected Jack C. Hedge as the Inland Port’s Executive Director.