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Salt Lake officers say repeat protesters want to antagonize, not to help homeless

(Photo Credit: Annie Knox, Deseret News, Jan, 5, 2020)

SALT LAKE CITY – Both sides are pointing fingers at the other after 17 people are arrested because of a standoff between Salt Lake City Police and people protesting the closure of The Road Home.  Advocates for the homeless say there aren’t enough beds for people in need, but, the police department says the opposite is true and that some of the protesters just want to provoke officers.

While speaking with KSL Newsradio’s Dave and Dujanovic, Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown mentioned the name of Michael Manhard.  That’s the name of the man who died in his tent inside the Occupy Salt Lake camp in 2011.  Manhard apparently died from a combination of carbon monoxide poisoning and a drug overdose.

Brown says he won’t let something like that happen again.  However, he claims people in those camps have made it so dangerous for medics to do their job, they have to wait for a police escort before going into Washington Square.  He says this made things worse for a patient who was going through an overdose on Saturday.

“We had to enact that protocol, which delayed us getting in there,” Brown says.

He also claims many of the people inside the homeless camp this weekend were also involved in the Inland Port protest that took over the Salt Lake Chamber office.

At the heart of the matter is the question about how many beds are available for people in need.  Homeless advocates say people are being turned away because there isn’t enough room.  Brown says that isn’t true.  He says they had social workers working in their command centers calling the resource centers to see what was available Saturday night.

He says, “At 11:15, we know, because they called the various shelters, there were 74 beds available.  At 12:15, we knew that there were 54 beds available.”

However, Deb Blake with the group Utah Against Police Brutality says they were doing the same thing, and getting very different information.

“We had people calling in real-time to each of the shelters to see if there were beds, or not,” Blake says, adding, “Every time, the shelters told us there was very little or no room at all.  We can’t explain why this disparity of information exists, but, the fact is that our unsheltered and the shelters, themselves, tell us there is not enough room.”

She also refutes the claims that they made it unsafe for medics to treat people with health problems.  Blake says they were actually doing first aid on people while they waited for first responders.