Utah skaters rally in solidarity with black community for ‘peaceful skateboard protest’

John Paul shouts as skateboarders protest at Liberty Park during an event called Skate for Solidarity in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 11, 2020. The protesters joined others across the nation to decry racism and police brutality after the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while being taken into custody by police in Minneapolis.

John Paul shouts as skateboarders protest at Liberty Park during an event called Skate for Solidarity in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 11, 2020. The protesters joined others across the nation to decry racism and police brutality after the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while being taken into custody by police in Minneapolis. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — More than a 1,000 people came together Thursday night to skate, rollerblade, bike and walk through downtown Salt Lake City in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Protesters pooled around a large square in the heart of Liberty Park. Skateboarders, some of whom had stenciled “black lives matter” atop their boards, rode across the stairs circling the square to rousing cheers and applause from the crowd.

Protesters thrust signs in the air reading “don’t shoot” and “black lives matter” as the skateboarders did tricks as they soared off of the stairs. Their boards rebounded off the concrete with a firm snap. Dogs bobbed around peoples’ ankles as their owners distributed water bottles and signs. A few people climbed trees to get a better view of the skateboarders.

The protest, named Black Lives Matter Skate for Solidarity, remained peaceful throughout the evening.

Paulina, who said she is a member of the Latinx indigenous community, said she’s been to several other protests including Wednesday’s rally organized by the Black Lives Matter northern Utah chapter, but none like this.

“I think this is so cool. This is the first skate protest that I’ve seen. I love that we are finding new avenues to protest or just come together as a community and say black lives matter,” said Paulina, who declined to give her last name. “I’m here to be just another body, another person that shows my solidarity with the black community.”

Protest organizers urged the crowd to stick together as they prepared to leave Liberty Park and head downtown, emphasizing the protest was peaceful. The group surged out of the park to set off up 500 East, while several police cars slowly followed the procession.

Christee Hixson, a longboard tucked under her arm, said she’s been to nearly every protest over the last couple of weeks as she followed the procession out of the park.

Hixson, who is black, explained the protests have given her the opportunity to speak out against injustices and have served as a “great talking point” for her to talk to the people in her life about racial issues.

She encouraged those who don’t understand what the movement is about to educate themselves and find resources that can tell them more.

“Doing nothing is just kind of not an option at this point. A lot of people don’t have the option to do nothing, like myself and my family, seeing as we are outnumbered in this state by a huge percentage,” she said. “If even half of the people went out and did their own research I’m sure people would understand more what the movement is about. It’s not complicated, it’s not an us versus them situation, it’s people collectively fighting against injustice.”

Some of the protesters went up to the Utah State Capitol, while others headed to Washington Square.

Nick Padilla said it was great to see people in the skating community come together for a great cause. He’s been skating for 10 years.

“Skating is just really open, I think a lot of us are different, like we are outsiders and the thing that draws us into skateboarding is the individual aspect of it,” he said as he sat in the grass at Washington Square. “You don’t have a coach, you don’t have structure, you can just do what you want, you can express yourself how you want.”

He said he hopes the protest helped raise awareness and will inspire those involved to vote and get more politically involved.

“I think it’s good people are aware of what’s going on,” Padilla said. “I know there’s a lot of reform that needs to be done and it takes efforts like this.”

Sahalie Donaldson

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