The officers brought protestors pizzas and a cooler filled with ice water, Gatorade, and soft drinks as a gesture of support.
When a previously-planned protest in Logan, Utah, was canceled over coronavirus concerns, Christopher Rojas decided he'd go alone. The 28-year-old Salt Lake City sound engineer drove 90 minutes north to the college town and stood outside the Historic Cache County Courthouse on Tuesday, holding signs toward passing motorists on Main Street to protest police brutality and systemic racism experienced by black Americans. Although he'd expected to be alone for most of the day, people soon began joining him and by afternoon, there were about two dozen demonstrators outside the courthouse.
In Logan, Utah. Started with 1, grew to over 100.— Anne Helen Petersen (@annehelen) June 3, 2020
"I expected to be alone for a long time today. But then within 15 minutes today, somebody saw me and they just pulled over. … They just came and picked up one of my signs and stood there."https://t.co/7GAzicFzC6
"I expected to be alone for a long time today," Rojas told The Herald Journal. "But then within 15 minutes today, somebody saw me and they just pulled over... They just came and picked up one of my signs and stood there." They were about four hours into the protest when he noticed two police officers walking towards the group with a stack of bright orange boxes and a large cooler. Having seen numerous instances of police aggression and violence against protestors across the country, Rojas feared the worst. "I thought, 'Oh, no, here come the police to hassle us — this is a peaceful gathering and we have a right to be here,'" he told The Washington Post.
I attended a peaceful protest today in Logan, Utah, a very conservative and predominately white town. Police officers brought us pizza and a cooler of sodas. We have to do more than just tweet about change, y’all. pic.twitter.com/SCEAl4bZQZ— Cori Smith (@CoachCoriSmith) June 2, 2020
However, as the officers drew closer, Rojas realized that they were coming in peace. Logan City Police Chief Gary Jensen and Assistant Police Chief Jeff Simmons were carrying 10 large pepperoni and cheese pies for the demonstrators. They also brought a cooler filled with ice water, Gatorade, and soft drinks, which they handed out to Rojas and the others. 56-year-old Jensen explained that he'd seen news footage of violence during a Salt Lake City protest and remembered how both officers and protesters had to be treated for heat exhaustion. Grateful that the protest in Logan was peaceful, he decided to extend a gesture of solidarity.
Here where I live in Utah, there was a peaceful protest and the police bought the protesters stacks of pizza and brank them soda to drink. All around the cops around here are very cool and Ive never truly had a bad experience with one, and my city is extremely safe to live in.— UberDerp // Matt ❁ (@UberDerp) June 4, 2020
"I thought, "How simple would it be to go over [to the Logan courthouse] right now and support these folks — they have a message and it's an important one,'" he said. "I said, 'Let's go over and help them in trying to be well while they deliver their message. Let's be supportive and human.'" Jensen explained that Logan Police wanted to use their standing in the community to support the protesters. The police department had received a stack of pizzas from local businesses as a sign of appreciation and Jensen figured the pies would be a great way to connect with the protestors. He hauled the pizzas out to his car with Simmons' help, filled a cooler with ice, and stopped at a grocery store to buy drinks.
1917, police brutality protest— cher | unf spree (@cheristi1) June 6, 2020
1938, police brutality protest
1999, police brutality protest
2020, police brutality protest
when does it end? how many more people will be victims to police brutality before the system finally changes? #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/eiQYaMKPgx
Sammy Pond, a protestor who spoke to the officer for a few minutes, said that acknowledgment and support like that by the Logan City cops could be the key to keep protests from escalating. "I think it's good because it shows that at least our police department is aware of and empathetic with the other side," Pond said. "And they understand, they have the humility to kind of see that police brutality is an issue and that they're choosing to be above that, that tendency. They're not going to see themselves as above the law. They're here to extend an olive branch to let us be supported. And I think more of that is what's going to bring peace and cause rallies, not rubber bullets and tear gas." Speaking of the unexpected gesture, Rojas said, "Can you believe that, man? Holy cow. I mean, I was hoping for that."
"For a second, it was like, 'Dang, we're not even doing anything,'" he added. "But we're within our constitutional rights to peacefully protest. And, well then, those officers knew it. They saw it. And they know their city. They know their city; they know nothing that crazy is going to happen here. So that was way cool." The officers spent about 15 minutes talking to the protesters and thanking them for holding a peaceful demonstration. "There was a good cross-section of people there and some of them knew Chief Simmons by name because they’d had some interaction with him while going to college," said Jensen. "I told them, 'I hope we can do better — I hope we can all do better.' We're all upset about what happened to George Floyd."
“This is not an awakening for Black people, who have known this reality since we were classified ‘Black,’” writes Yassmin Abdel-Magied (@yassmin_a). “This is a moment of awakening for white people, non-Black people, non-Indigenous people” https://t.co/B4okCog31f— TIME (@TIME) June 8, 2020
"They added to the spirit of what we were doing," said Pond. "Instead of tear gas and rubber bullets, they brought food and drinks and spent some time with us. That’s what it’s going to take in this country." Jensen agreed, adding, "It's important to extend an olive branch."