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Salt Lake police and Utah Highway Patrol troopers force protesters out of the Chamber of Commerce Building at 175 E. 400 South in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 9, 2019. The protest over the Utah Inland Port began at the City-County Building and moved to the Chamber of Commerce Building where the port authority meets. (Photo: Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

Investigations Continue Into Violence at Inland Port Protest

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Police continue to look for those involved in Tuesday’s inland port protest that spiraled into violence even as a separate, internal investigation looks into police officers’ use of force.

During the hours-long protest, 75 police officers responded to the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce building located at 175 E. 400 South. Officers arrested 10 protesters on investigation of various charges, including rioting, criminal trespass, assaulting police and failure to disperse.

Organizers describe the protest as a collaboration between several organizations, including the national Earth First! environmental activist group, ICE Free SLC, Civil Riot, Rose Park Brown Berets, Utah Against Police Brutality, and the Canyon Country and Wasatch chapters of Rising Tide.

KSL TV has confirmed that Earth First! was holding its annual, week-long Round River Rendezvous in Utah at the same time of the inland port protest. The group obtained a special-use permit for 300 people to camp on U.S. Forest Service land at a location east of Kamas, according to the Heber-Kamas Ranger District.

The permit allowed the group to set up camp in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest from July 3 through 10. Organizers with Earth First! worked well with forest service staff to organize the event and there were no issues or complaints made against the group, said Matthew Lane, the ranger district’s recreation staff officer.

KSL TV requested comment from Earth First! through email and telephone message but did not receive a response.

In a press conference on Thursday, several of the groups involved in the protest held a press conference. The protesters said their event was peaceful and blamed police for inciting violence by grabbing and punching protesters.

“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,” Adair Kovac, one of the protesters with Civil Riot, said in a press release.

In response, Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown praised his officers for responding appropriately and said his officers were spit on, scratched and kicked by protesters. He said an internal affairs investigation is underway as police review more than 100 pieces of video from body cameras.

Gov. Gary Herbert quickly criticized the activists’ actions at the Chamber of Commerce building.

“This was more than just a protest; this was borderline terrorism. This was more than people just standing up for a cause they believe in; this was having no tolerance for a difference of opinion,” Herbert said in a statement. “This was bullying, intimidation, and violence, and will not be tolerated.”

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