New Yorkers don’t know much about Salt Lake City. Ask an average Manhattanite about this Western hub of 1.1 million people, and two associations will likely pop up: Mormonism and skiing.
However, on a recent visit to Utah I uncovered something that Salt Lake City has that New York doesn’t…. an Occupy Wall Street tent encampment!
While the Occupy Wall Street movement started in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, our city no longer has a tent encampment. Tents and generators were removed by the NYPD in November so the park could be “cleared and restored,” but were not allowed back after the cleaning. Tents were cleared from several cities across the U.S. that same week.
I was surprised to find a dozen tents covered with “Occupy SLC” signs while strolling through downtown Salt Lake City on December 21st. The tents are located in the Gallivan Center, home to an ice skating rink and a Wells Fargo bank, among other businesses.
During the 2002 Winter Olympics, this area was “one of the busiest hotspots” in downtown Salt Lake City, according to the Gallivan Center website. A large Olympic banner flies over the “Occupy SLC” tent city.
On the brisk December day that I visited, the tents appeared to be empty. However, I spotted a young protester coming out of a tent and we chatted as we walked toward the ice rink. (I was going to ice skate and he was hoping to score a free coffee at the ice rink cafe, which he did). He said about a dozen “Occupy Salt Lake City” protester sleep overnight at the site.
He had just met a visitor from Brooklyn who expressed interest in the local movement. This OWS encampment seems to be drawing international admirers as well; a cardboard sign in Korean was propped up against a tent when I visited.
In contrast to the New York City OWS movement, which has no official list of demands, the SLC protest appears to have some very specific goals.
An information sheet posted in the encampment suggests that corporations can restore “responsibility and ethics” by:
Ending “government corporate welfare subsidies”
Ending “corporate political contributions”
Requiring corporate board members to be company shareholders for at least a year
Allowing American investors in mutual funds to proportionally vote their shares
[This is just a summary. See the above photo for the complete proposal]
“Occupy SLC” appears to have a mascot– the title creature from the Dr. Seuss book, The Lorax, which is widely seen as a critique of industrialized society. This furry mascot appears on a flag that flies over the encampment, along with the ominous words “unless, unless, unless.”
The local Occupy Wall Street movement also appears to have an artfully designed logo, which is stenciled across a tent. It depicts a beehive, the state symbol for Utah, and the words “Occupy SLC.”
According to press reports, this tent city sprung up in November 2011 after protesters agreed to disband an encampment on private land. While there was no activity during my Christmas-week visit, “Occupy SLC” continues to stage protests in the city.
To see who is participating in the “Occupy SLC” movement, watch this YouTube video posted in October 2011.
Update — 1/12/12
In a tweet sent on Monday, the “Occupy Salt Lake” Twitter page clarified the strategic importance of its Gallivan Center location, which sits next to three major financial institutions:
What do you think of Occupy SLC?
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