Will the SLC murals to police shooting victims survive redevelopment?

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One by one, their portraits went up. George Floyd, Bernard Palacios-Cabahal, Breona Taylor, Bobby Ray Duckworth, Zane James and more.

Now those pink and red murals are down, not because the causes of social justice endorsed by their creators have been fully achieved, but because the blocks that act as their canvas are destined to be developed. It seems to go.

Mayor Erin Mendenhall is pursuing the city’s long-standing desire to rejuvenate what is called the Fleet Block and suspects that it could save Wall Art.

According to her office, the building that is home to the murals is simply not safe.

After Floyd’s murder in 2020 triggered national demonstrations, the faces of West 300 and South 800 became a memorial to the bloody victims of police shootings in Utah and a meeting place for protesters. It has become a place where families mourn the loss of their loved ones.

However, according to Mendenhall, the city-owned land that was used to maintain and store the city’s fleet has little room to gather.

“There is no meeting space. We hope that future fleet block development will create a real meeting space,” she said.

[Read more about whose faces appear in the murals and how they died.]

As the events of 2020 changed the importance of this place from dilapidated buildings to a symbol of social justice, the mayor’s office focused on creating inclusive and equitable development in the up-and-coming Granary district. I am.

The city has no immediate plans to destroy the building, and official requests for redevelopment proposals remain months ahead, but the family depicted in the murals are hurt, disappointed, and disappointed about the possibility of losing the monument. , Expressed a blend of pain.

(Rick Eagan | Salt Lake Tribune) Tuesday, May 25, 2021, a rally to commemorate the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death in a mural.

One of those relatives, Black Lives Matter Utah leader Ray Duckworth, said he was disappointed that preserving the murals wasn’t part of the city’s plans, but wasn’t surprised.

She said removing them was an option.

She believes it is possible to preserve murals, buildings and blocks. “But unfortunately, I understand that Salt Lake City works with profits in mind rather than people.”

Duckworth, whose cousin Bobby Ray Duckworth was shot dead by Wellington police officers in 2019, said families responding to the city’s outreach activities wanted to save Brock. It’s a meeting place in the middle of everything, a healing space where people who have lost their loved ones can comfort each other.

“It’s another bond of connection there,” she said. “But when you have something that will make a big difference in your life, you never want to feel lonely, so it’s very healing.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Black Lives Matter Utah leader Rae Duckworth, shown in April 2021, is disappointed that the fleet block murals may not be preserved when redevelopment begins. doing.

The picture shows not only the people killed, but what needs to be changed for a better future, one family wrote a draft letter to the city authorities.

“Loss of the mural, our place of tranquility, will be like losing our loved ones again,” lamented relatives.

The city has long wanted redevelopment

Menden Hall discussed the redevelopment of the site before the murals appeared, and the city expressed interest in revitalizing the area 10 years earlier.

The mayor said her administration has taken unprecedented steps to ensure that the community is included in the conversation about the future of the fleet block.

Part of that effort began last summer when her office began several months of outreach to the family depicted in the murals.

“We’ve never done this kind of work, and we’ve never done this kind of work, as we did at Fleet Block,” Mendenhall said.

(Francisco Kjolseth | Salt Lake Tribune) Mayor of Salt Lake City, Erin Mendenhall, has taken unprecedented steps by her administration to ensure that the community is included in conversations about the future of Fleetblock. I said there is.

Ashley Cleveland, the mayor’s deputy director of community support, began connecting with his family in August. In October, several relatives of Fleetblock attended a bi-monthly meeting to discuss grief counseling, art healing sessions, and the future of the property.

According to Cleveland, the intention was to somehow preserve the mural story when the block was finally redeveloped. It culminated in a formal testimonial from the family to the mayor, outlining what they wanted to see in a new iteration of the fleet block.

Cleveland, who also discovered healing from mural paintings as a black woman, said the family wants their loved ones’ faces and stories to continue in a new space. And she said they didn’t want those images to appear in commercial buildings.

“If you lost a loved one and it was a very traumatic experience for you,” Cleveland said. Or is it unpleasant for you? “

Continue to call for social change

According to the draft recommendation, the participating families suggested that the city consider creating a resource center with murals. The day of “saying their name” in memory. A streetlight banner with a face on it. A community garden named in honor of them. Commemorative art or statues; Memorial Square; Illuminated; and plaque.

“Most importantly, we are looking for space or means to help families grieve, keep their memories alive, and promote social justice issues in our community.”

(Francisco Jorces | Salt Lake Tribune) Tiffany James kisses her daughter, Ruby 7, who visits a portrait of her son and brother Zane James, who was killed by Cottonwood Heights police in August 2021. You have the option to save the mural, including the possibility of relocation.

Among the people named in the letter was Tiffany James. Her son Zane was killed by a Cottonwood Heights police officer in 2018.

James, who is involved in livelihood development, said he has options for preserving murals, including the possibility of relocation.

She said that when the outreach activity began, she felt that the redevelopment of the block had already been decided in advance and her family never had the impression that their opinions were taken seriously.

“For us, it was about the problem that murals express and speak to,” she said. “That’s what the city should have done.”

And what they represent is a cry for changes in the use of deadly forces in Utah, she said.

The Menden Hall office pointed out that the mayor announced reforms in the wake of the 2020 protest.

Police are currently facing new requirements, such as the need to use deescalation techniques before being arrested. If force is used, it must be submitted for two levels of internal review. Prohibition of deadly power when people try not to hurt themselves. Disciplinary action, intentional or negligent, to activate the body camera. A new rule for obtaining consent to perform a search without a warrant. And a new responsibility to intervene if you see other officers exercising excessive force.

After Floyd’s death, the city council and Mendenhall formed a committee on racial equality in the police. Last year, emergency responders received additional training to learn how to better interact with people in need of the senses.

In the next fiscal year, the government wants to create a new private response team for police and hire outreach and recruitment coordinators to focus on undervalued communities.

Why the property is not safe

According to Cleveland, the issue of preserving murals and mourning the victims is not about lack of desire. It’s about the condition of the asbestos-filled building and the pollution beneath it. According to the city, land cleanup can cost as much as $ 2 million.

From a family point of view, Cleveland said it would last longer if the city duplicated the monument with better materials.

“We shouldn’t hand over a monument made of materials that can’t stand the test of time, as it’s not what we want,” Cleveland said. “I don’t want this conversation to fade. They don’t want their families to get worse.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | Salt Lake Tribune) The city is pursuing a redevelopment process that emphasizes inclusion and community feedback on what the new space will be.

Ruby Mercado, whose brother Jobany was murdered by Ogden police in 2019, is not convinced that the city wants to leave a mural, but even if the treatment is not enough to overcome the sadness, she I praised the outreach.

She said the fleet block is beautiful as it is, but admits that safety issues could force the city to break the walls that support the artwork.

Mercado said he wanted to see the face repainted, as it does today.

“Then it’s like we’ve never lost anything,” she said.

In January, 8.75 acres of city-owned real estate were valued at $ 37.5 million, assuming the parcels were cleaned.

The city is pursuing a redevelopment process that emphasizes inclusion and community feedback on what the space will be like.

This month, Mendenhall will issue $ 80 million in Salt Lake City ballots in November to cover the cost of a long-term public land program, including $ 5 million to upgrade open spaces in Fleetblock. I requested.

Editor’s note •• This story is only available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers. Thank you for supporting local journalism.

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