Rally at the Utah capitol: Unlikely allies, taking unlikely action
Despite outrageous laws, politics, and dominant culture, the people are what keep me in Salt Lake City. We are all in this together.
Friday, March 11, 2011 - 23:35
Photo: Aaron K. Ernst
Last night, diverse groups from all over Utah and from all walks of political life came together to fight for open government and transparency in our Utah State Legislature.
The "Shine A Light On Government" rally was organized to protest the signature of Governor Gary Herbert on House Bill 477. The bill was signed after being "recalled" just hours prior, and guts GRAMA, the Government Records Access Management Act. This allows our elected officials the freedom to conduct the people's business in secrecy, and make private deals with special interests without public participation in the process. Groups from all over Utah find the bill outrageous and are incredulous at its swift ratification. It was a first for me, to say the least, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the most adamantly conservative political groups in Utah — including folks from the Eagle Forum and the local Tea Party — united against this uniquely harmful development.
It was an incredible night, to say the least. The rally attendees brought flashlights that lit up the beautiful capitol building and gave a striking visual to our urgent message. The rally, organized by other advocacy groups all over the state, began with songs of solidarity provided by our own Peaceful Uprising. Locals spoke with passionate conviction about how House Bill 477 will personally affect their daily lives.
The final speaker was Peaceful Uprising's Ash Anderson, who got everyone good and riled, and then announced that he was bringing the rally into the rotunda, and wondered who would join him. Not a single soul hesitated. Peaceful Uprising led the slow stream of hundreds of protesters into the capitol, singing "This Land Is Your Land."
We flooded the stairs and proceeded to occupy all three floors of the building, and then two dozen of us proceeded into the gallery itself during session. Even though the majority of our elected officials were holding caucus, we filed in until security locked the rest of us outside, and we started singing: "This little light of mine; I'm gonna let it shine."
It was an incredibly empowering, inspiring night for a community often divided along partisan and ideological lines. The capitol building's magnificent acoustics rang out chants of "Repeal!" and "OUR house!"
Oftentimes people wonder why I remain a committed climate activist in one of the reddest states in the nation. Say what you will about our legislators, elected officials and government — but never raise your voice against our incredible community. Salt Lake's citizens are some of the finest in the world, and I would never consider leaving this place despite its outrageous laws, policies and dominant culture. The people are what keep me here. We are all in this together.
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