Police arrest 17 in Salt Lake City park homeless protest

January 6, 2020 GMT

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Police have arrested demonstrators who were camping in a park surrounding Salt Lake City Hall to protest the treatment of homeless people.

Police arrested 17 members of the Take Shelter Coalition early Sunday, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Four people were booked into Salt Lake County jail and 13 were issued citations, police said.

The coalition, part of the activist group Civil Riot, began the protest last Thursday by setting up tents in Washington Square Park.

Demonstrators said they had planned to stay in the park until public officials listened to their demands, including the opening of a new downtown shelter to replace the shuttered Road Home emergency shelter and a halt to the police ticketing of people who camp

Before the arrests were made, police on Friday and Saturday distributed printouts of city ordinances explaining the park’s curfew and camping prohibition.

Demonstrators linked arms and formed a chain around the campsite Saturday night, shouting protest chants and demands that drowned out police commands to leave.

Most demonstrators left the park in a procession just after 11 p.m. Police in riot gear took more than three hours to clear remaining demonstrators out of the park.

Activist Marvin Oliveros was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct, interfering with an arresting officer and failure to disperse. He said the demonstration was aimed at attracting the attention of people who have seen the tent city.

“Whether it be people driving by just being curious, or people that might have noticed things here and there and now they see this (demonstration), and maybe that gives them enough interest to really dig in themselves,” Oliveros said.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown accused the group of being agitators and said group members refused to meet with him, Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Mayor-elect Erin Mendenhall.