SALT LAKE CITY – The Salt Lake City Police Department is being criticized for letting protesters block several intersections downtown during a demonstration over the weekend.
People criticized the police and flooded the comments section on a video of one of the demonstrations posted to the KSL-TV Facebook page. Many were concerned that protesters could have been preventing drivers from getting medical care and were upset that the police were not arresting people for blocking traffic.
However, Sgt. Keith Horrocks believes it can be a difficult call for officers to make because they have to balance people’s 1st Amendment right to protest.
“There is a certain amount of civil disobedience and, yes, what that means is that people are breaking minor traffic laws. We’re allowing that to happen just so we’re not infringing on that free speech,” Horrocks says.
Another factor was the officers did not feel the protesters were violent.
“Our priority is life safety. We want to make sure that people are safe. As long as [it’s] a minor disruption, we’ve allowed it to happen to this point. However, if it becomes a life safety issue or that type of behavior gets to be a violent situation…we are able to respond,” Horrocks says.
Sgt. Horrocks also says this is similar to what police departments across the country are doing, though their department is constantly reviewing their policies and tactics to better respond the next time something happens.
Additionally, he is reminding people that protests may continue for some time in the downtown area, so it may be a good idea for drivers to plan ahead if they can.
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