Drums vs Police nightsticks, riot gear and gas launchers: Salt

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sun, 25 Apr 1999 02:46:50 -0700 (PDT)

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If park celebrants and/or police had had Nonviolence Training before the
incident reported below, could it have made a difference in the outcome?

FWD  Salt Lake Tribune [Utah, USA] - April 20, 1999


     PHOTO: An officer has a confrontation with someone
     who refused to leave Liberty Park on Sunday.
     (Ryan Galbriath/Salt Lake Tribune)

     By Greg Burton - The Salt Lake Tribune

A day's hindsight provided little unity among drum-circle celebrants swept
out of Liberty Park Sunday afternoon by a police force armed with
nightsticks, riot gear and gas launchers.

Some protesters argued for the civil right to drum and dance in a public
park, especially one called Liberty; others called for the free and legal
consumption of marijuana.

"I'm asking the officers to differentiate between toxic and nontoxic drugs
and to leave the kids alone," said Amelia English, a 59-year-old activist
who urged city leaders to find a peaceful middle ground. "Some elements
gathering around the drum circle have disturbed me, but not the peaceful

<br>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;   On the other side of the badge, police were
resolute: Salt Lake City will not tolerate drugs or weapons in a public

"We cannot afford to let that park deteriorate to open lawlessness, to
where drugs and weapons are being brought into that park," Police Chief
Ruben Ortega said Monday. "It was just a matter of time for these folks to
take over the park."

For police, Sunday began with a saturation of parks across Salt Lake City.
The same squad of Community Oriented Police (C.O.P.) officers who cruised
through Liberty Park starting at 2:30 p.m. began the afternoon visiting
Fairmont and Sugar House parks.

But Sugar House and Fairmont netted only two alcohol violations -- one at a
family picnic -- and a citation for a loose dog.

Liberty was different.

>From 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. -- before police in riot gear met the mob in
sandals -- officers arrested or issued citations to 16 people at the drum
circle: 10 for alcohol violations, five for possession of marijuana, drug
paraphernalia or distribution of drugs and one for not keeping his dog on a

In the middle of arrest No. 17, police allege Brock Anthony Horton exhorted
friends and cohorts to retaliate against two uniformed bicycle officers.

"He started yelling we were violating his rights," said Salt Lake City
police Officer Phillip Kearney, a five-year veteran. "We could see a bad
situation coming at us very quickly."

On March 30, Horton was also arrested at Liberty Park by a C.O.P. officer
who allegedly saw the 20-year-old urinating on a tree. On April 5, Horton
failed to show up for a court appearance and a $2,500 bench warrant was
issued for his arrest.

On Sunday, undercover officers allege Horton made four sales of loose
marijuana to spectators surrounding the drum circle. Kearney and another
uniformed bicycle officer, Cale Lennberg, arrested Horton.

At 4:30 p.m., Kearney and Lennberg handcuffed Horton and attempted to move
him away from the crowd. But at Horton's urging, officers allege, scores of
drum-circle partiers broke away from the dance pit and began circling the

"I was screaming on the radio for help," Lennberg said.

Kearney and Lennberg continued to back away, but even as reinforcements
arrived, up to 150 people purportedly taunted the officers.

"That's the first time I feared for my safety," said Sgt. Jed Hurst, a
17-year veteran. "We pulled back and they continued to come at us."

<br>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;   Hurst was the first officer to order the crowd to
disperse, using a megaphone. Watch commander Lt. Sandra Urry ordered the
crowd to disperse a second time, to no avail.

"They escalated this, we did not," Urry said. "We had to go back and
enforce violations of the law."

Said officer Randall Hendry: "It's an unreasonable expectation for them to
expect us to leave just because they challenge us."

Many drum circlers saw it differently. Only a few incorrigibles taunted the
police, they say. Some in the drum crowd say they never heard an order to

"Half of the people there don't do drugs -- they are there to have a good
time, like a church without a specific religion," said Pam Morse, 37, of
Salt Lake City. "But without telling anyone, they came and bombarded us."

At 7 p.m., roughly 45 officers walked from the north border to the south
border of the park, clearing everyone in their path. During the sweep, five
people were cited for failure to disperse. Two of the five were also cited
for possession of tobacco and resisting arrest. One was taken to jail.

"We gave them basically every chance . . . to turn around and walk away,"
Hurst said.

Several in the crowd were hit with nightsticks, although no serious
injuries were reported.

"All we want is peace," said Morse. "We are not hurting anybody."

The drum circle is a ragtag, rhythmic gathering of mostly teen-agers and
young adults who on Sunday dance and drum near the east edge of Liberty
Park, next to a sandstone Mormon monument and a row of teetering rock

But among Sunday's pot smokers and beer drinkers were two 16-year-olds and
a 14-year-old. And among the revelers were a handful of infants or young
children. That, say officers involved in Sunday's standoff, was the most
offending aspect of the gathering.

"I remember looking into the general area of the crowd and seeing a lot of
young kids," said Sonny Ricks, one of the first officers on the scene.
"That was bothersome."

Related Tribune Article:
Arrest Attempt Turns S.L. Park Into Riot


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