Thank you for your email dated June 30. It’s clear from your message and your statement at the City Council Meeting July 1 that we have a giant gulf of understanding to overcome. It’s unfortunate, but in the spirit of being constructive, please allow us to give you some of our perspectives.
First of all, let me address the role of the concerned citizens who protected the monuments. It was clear from speaking to the patriots who were there that their intent was not to protect the monuments from us or the other protesters. The quote from the vet we primarily conversed was, “We recognize you have a right to protest and we’re fine with that. We’re here to protect these (monuments) from them Antifa SOB’s!” After speaking with us they did not see our group as a threat, whatsoever. Both sides came to an understanding on why each group was there. We all agreed that we had a perfect right to peaceably assemble to promote each of our own points of view.
Moreover, three of the four members of the executive committee are either veterans or have had significant ancillary positions within the military as were other marchers. They cited the protection of free speech and the right of assembly as key reasons for serving.
What’s ridiculous about all this is that the marchers were NEVER about harming the monuments, not businesses, nor looting, nor public endangerment. This entire event was always about demonstrating peacefully and subsequently reflecting on the state of race relations and police violence in general. If you had attended, you would have seen the spirit of the occasion. I’m grateful for those who did attend — the County Commissioners and Councilman Graf. Those who didn’t missed an opportunity to begin a dialogue.
I’m sorry the community was afraid. Imagine how the owners of the Fox and Raven Art Studio felt. These proprietors have had their studio lease terminated because they refused their landlord’s demand to remove a piece of their art. The art in question commemorated Brionna Taylor’s death with the words “Black Lives Matter” on the print. I’m glad you stand with the business community. Will you stand with the owners of Fox and Raven? Will you protect this local business as well?
We were afraid. Some of our group had been threatened beforehand with violence. Many of the counter-protesters were open-carrying weapons. Very few of us (if any) were armed. Unlike you, we were not going to be deterred. We were prepared to peacefully and non-violently stand up to the online bullies and the unknown threats. Perhaps if you had taken half of the steps we took to try and quell the online mob we would have had a much different tone.
Sadly, I have to relate this to you as a third person. I can’t tell you how disappointing your absence was — it spoke volumes. It would have shown leadership if you had appeared with us. Scapegoating demonstrators and blaming the victims of online bullying is the opposite of leadership. Blaming the victims for the unrest seems to be convenient, especially in a community where white folks account for roughly 80% of the population. Fear sells. It sold on Tooele 411 and it sold in your speech to the Tooele City Council, where you made no mention or effort to praise those who were continuously accused of violence for their peacefulness but instead chose to praise every person who was there to counter our pleas for racial justice. Your silence on this matter is deafening.
Lastly, we appreciate the subtle effect various law enforcement entities played in the events on June 26. Overall, the rude and disrespectful behavior of a few counter-protest muscle cars were largely inconsequential. We had a great evening and finished on a tremendously reverent and poignant note. We look forward to continuing the excellent conversations we’ve had with Sheriff Wimmer and Chief Kirby, who both seemed open to establishing a dialogue. We hope you feel the same.
Mike Keil, Chair, Tooele County Democratic Party
Greg Dunn, Vice Chair, Tooele County Democratic Party
Kary Griffith, Secretary, Tooele County Democratic Party
Mike Kase, Treasurer, Tooele County Democratic Party
Alexia Blake, Activist
Mike Keil provided the following email that he received on June 30 from Tooele City Mayor Debbie Winn.
Thank you for taking the time to thank our parks department staff who helped to secure your special events permit and prepare the park for your event. I also wanted to let you know that there were many other individuals involved in ensuring that you and other people were safe. There were over 50 law enforcement officers on duty that evening from Tooele City, Grantsville City, Tooele County and Utah Highway Patrol. These men and women were responding to the many threats that were coming mainly through social media. I am aware that Chief Kirby and Sheriff Wimmer had several conversations with you about the event. I even saw the email that you sent asking “How can we help make sure this stays peaceful?” I understand why you were concerned for your safety.
Mountain West Medical Center was also on alert that evening with the hospital and their ambulance service just in case they were needed. We unfortunately had a main water break on Utah Avenue just hours before the event began. We had to leave the water turned off for several hundred homes for an additional 3-4 hours while our crews left the area so that they could be safe in case things got out of hand.
I have heard from many residents and businesses of their fearfulness that something would happen to their homes or businesses. The reports on the news just fueled the anxiety they were experiencing. Many businesses spent money to add protection to their buildings; some in the thousands of dollars. One local business was contacted by their corporate office and encouraged them to secure the building with plywood on the windows, just in case.
I am so appreciative of our residents who were able to disagree about an issue and control their tempers in a way that allowed all to express their feelings in a peaceful manner. I am appreciative of all of our staff who answered many concerns from residents and business owners. We are blessed to live in a community where law enforcement have policies in place to protect and serve all people and do it with kindness and with the least amount of force as possible. I am so proud of our veterans who have served our county and preserved our freedom to assemble and speak, especially those that showed up to protect the statues at the Veterans Park.
I may have gone a little overboard on this reply, but I hope that you will understand how many people were affected by this event that allowed you to express your opinions and hope for the American citizens. I also hope that you feel blessed to have so many watching over you and protecting that right. In the end, if we all sit down and discuss the challenges, I am confident that we can change the world for the better. I will always make myself available to discuss your concerns.
Mayor Debbie Winn