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Defund and divest: Panelists explore alternatives to policing in SLC

Deja Gaston speaks to a crowd organized by the Salt Lake City branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) June 1, 2020. The PSL has organized regular meetings, marches, and events to demand justice for Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake and others in recent months. (Kate McMaster)

Westminster College panelists posed an alternative to traditional policing during a panel Westminster’s Student Diversity and Inclusion Center hosted Wednesday — arguing it’s needed in the state of Utah. 

“It’s completely widely accepted that we need to figure out an alternative to policing in Salt Lake City,” said Carly Holderman, a social justice activist and one of the three panelists. “Especially in Utah, we have the highest rate in the country of disproportionate Black deaths. Nationally, the average is four times the rate of police killings of Black people to white people. Here, it is 10 times the rate. That is the highest in the country.” 

In Utah, the average rate of police killings for all people was 3.8 from 2013-2018, but for Black people the rate increased to 33.9, according to

As the slogan “Defund the police” widely circulated over the summer — largely in response to George Floyd’s death by a police officer May 25 — some critics called it “too extreme.”

However, Daud Mumin — a social activist and sophomore at Westminster — said the harsh stance is necessary.

“It is our responsibility to understand that we must abolish the police because the existence of the police is inherently and intrinsically tied to an investment in violence against Black and brown people in America,” Mumin said.

The panelists shared their views on how Salt Lake City’s nearly $80 million police budget could be reallocated to best serve the community.

“What we need is increased funding for housing [and] educational resources,” said Deja Gaston, University of Utah senior and organizer for the Salt Lake City branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

“Those are obvious places right now within Salt Lake that are immediate needs and demands,” Gaston said. “Including homelessness as well. Those […] are places that we need to redistribute those funds and help with de-escalation and intervention.”

The panelists urged community members to get involved with Utah Against Police Brutality or the Party for Socialism and Liberation to continue to capitalize on the current social momentum.

“I think it’s important we keep training new recruits in the movement so we don’t experience this individual activism where we’re all coming up with our own great bubble ideas,” Holderman said. “Instead, we’re throwing down our banner around the same campaign because we want to see it through.”


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Kate McMaster is a junior majoring in communication and minoring in film studies at Westminster College. She is especially interested in visual communication and graphic design. Off campus she enjoys playing guitar, painting, hiking and movies.

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