Eight Arrested in a Violent Show of Force by Police Department in Nonviolent Protest of Proposed Utah Inland Port at Salt Lake City and County Building
Impacted Community Members, Indigenous Leaders, & Environmental Activists Call Out Devastating Impacts of the Inland Port on Public Health, Wildlife Habitats, and Future of Our Planet
Contact: Mariella Mendoza, 801.410.0225, firstname.lastname@example.org
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Eight people were arrested and several received a citation at the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce in nonviolent resistance to the proposed Utah Inland Port this afternoon. The protest was a collaboration between the national Earth First! movement and local Utah organizations ICE Free SLC, Civil Riot, the Rose Park Brown Berets, Canyon Country Rising Tide, Utah Against Police Brutality, and Wasatch Rising Tide. A group of five people locked themselves together in the offices of the Chamber of Commerce while people gathered inside and outside of the building chanting and singing in support. Police were called to the scene and responded to the crowd of mostly youth with a violent show of force, shoving people out of the building, grabbing and jostling people, and even punching some people in the face.
The activist groups organized the action and adjacent rally to raise awareness of the devastating public health impacts of the proposed inland port, and its inherent environmental racism and classism, particularly to the communities surrounding the 16,000 acres set aside for the project. These neighborhoods include Rose Park, West Valley City, and Poplar Grove–communities of predominantly poor and low-income Latinx, white, and other people of color who already experience disproportionate pollution, policing, and other forms of disenfranchisement.
“Nonviolent direct action can shine a light on the grave injustice being done by the powerful elite with this destructive development, through the harm it will cause to the surrounding communities, wildlife habitats, and the planet,” said Adair Kovac, one of the protesters and a member of civil resistance group Civil Riot. “The violent response from the police yet again proves that law enforcement serves and protects the wealthy and their property and interests, not the majority of people.”
Grounded in a tradition of Indigenous resistance and Civil Rights movements, the action was an escalation of attempts made by impacted community members to reach Derek Miller, chairman of the Utah Inland Port Authority board, and other wealthy, politically connected stakeholders who support the port. Participants in the action have also testified at public hearings, submitted written comments, and supported the civil suit filed against the port by Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski.
“As Chair of the Port Authority Board, and President of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, Derek Miller has been an enthusiastic supporter of the proposed polluting port. Among the more troubling aspects of his cheerleading is his refusal to acknowledge the harm it will cause, and his habit of dismissing community concerns,” said representatives from Canyon Country Rising Tide.
Research shows that sea ports and inland ports are enormous emitters of pollution. Ports run on diesel, and diesel emits tons of pollution. Salt Lake City already fails to meet federal air quality standards, and air pollution has led to an increase in health problems and even death of vulnerable community members.
“Historically, communities of color and immigrants on the West Side of Salt Lake have experienced much of the violence committed by the financial and political elite of Utah. Through processes of racist policing, gentrification, deportation, red-lining, and labor abuse, the west side has been continuously exploited for the benefit of those who do not live in our communities,” said Ella Mendoza. “The Inland Port represents a strategic assault on this community, as it is dependent on their displacement and suffering in order to function. Our communities continue to fight back against the racist, exploitative, and oligarchic systems that drive this terror, from the border to the Inland Port.”
The proposal also includes 10,000 acres of undeveloped wetlands adjacent to the Great Salt Lake – and landing place for over 10 million migratory birds each year whose habitat would be disrupted by the air, noise, and light pollution. And based on statements made by the Port Authority Board members who are legislators, the legislation just passed to expand the port authority’s jurisdiction is intended to create fossil fuel transloading hubs in rural communities, which would negatively impact air and water quality in these communities and further incentives to continue chipping away at Utah’s public lands, leading to an increase in fossil fuel-based greenhouse gas emissions.
“We are demanding that the Utah Inland Port project be canceled immediately and that anti-racist, sustainable rewilding alternatives be developed and managed by local communities,” said Eliza Van Dyk, an organizer with Wasatch Rising Tide. “If the polluting port is constructed, Derek Miller will be contributing to climate chaos, sacrificing the future of young people across Utah, and worsening structural and environmental racism in the Salt Lake Valley.
The protesters also drew connections between the development proposal–which is being messaged as an economic opportunity by the state of Utah, Salt Lake City and County councils, CBRE, Rio Tinto, Envision Utah, Savage, the Chamber of Commerce, and others–and the history of colonial violence by white settlers who dispossessed the Ute, Shoshone, and Goshute tribes of their ancestral lands and wreaked havoc on the web of life.
There is little time left for a just transition to a society that respects the planet’s limits and acknowledges the dignity of all beings. People are reclaiming their power and challenging the state and private actors driving our species toward extinction. We will defend our communities. “Our community is rising. Derek Miller and this illegitimate board have the option to stop contributing to climate catastrophe or to confront popular power,” said Maura Sanchez, an organizer with Civil Riot.
Livestream of Action: https://www.facebook.com/CivilRioters/videos/763576204037565/