Students for a Democratic Society Plan Protest for VP Debate


Camille Rousculp

Advertisement for the 2020 Vice Presidential Debate on the Marriott Library at the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City on September 28th 2020. (Photo by Camille Rousculp | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Kayleigh Silverstein, Special Projects Managing Editor, News Writer


On Oct. 7, with the nation’s eyes on the University of Utah for the 2020 Vice Presidential Debate, the Utah Students for a Democratic Society will be holding a protest. 

“The big reason why we wanted to call the protest around this is it’s a big national event that’s happening here on campus, and we wanted to make sure that we had some sort of response from groups here in the valley,” said Josh Memmott, a third-year student studying economics and political science, and an organizer of the protest. 

SDS is raising their concerns with the possibility of the candidates being within earshot to hear their demands. 

“We have these candidates who make a lot of promises that they almost never keep or follow up on and get the message across that we’re listening to what they’re saying, and we’re going to hold them accountable,” said Colin Hancock, a third-year student studying chemical engineering, and helping out with security at the protest. 

The protest is organized around eight points of unity, which include defunding the police, taxing the rich and taking serious climate action. 

“The purpose of the protest is to be heard, to get a message across, and that message is that we want protection for the rights of all, regardless of race, gender orientation, nationality, ability, religion or immigration status,” Hancock said. 

Another goal of the protest is to amplify the voices of working people and people of color. 

“The main goal of the protest is to make sure that working people and people of color are able to get their voices across to city leaders, state leaders, national leaders. There are serious issues that are happening inside this country that continue to not be addressed,” Memmott said. 

Memmott said that while SDS has held events condemning Trump’s actions in the past, they are not necessarily in full support of the democratic party either. 

“There’s this broader movement going on around police reform and criminal justice reform and things like that. We have a former cop prosecutor and the guy that wrote the crime bill that put a lot of people in prison in the first place. It just seems incredibly tone-deaf,” Memmott said. 

While SDS is not protesting the U’s decision to host the VP debate, Memmott is disappointed in this expensive undertaking, especially with students being left in the background. 

“I think that there’s like a better place for that funding. Students need more than this. They’re giving seats to students, but it’s like, maybe 200 at most. I think the trade-off doesn’t seem like it’s worth it in my opinion,” Memmott said.

SDS usually hosts events on campus with just their organization, but the environment of this national event is inspiring organizational collaboration.

“At this organization, we actually got in contact with and are currently collaborating with Pink Pistols, Utahns Against Police Brutality, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Free the People and then COVID-19 Mutual Aid,” Hancock said. 

At a press conference on Sept. 25, Marlon Lynch, the U’s chief safety officer, said that vandalism and violence would not be tolerated at the protest. 

SDS is doing what they can to ensure a peaceful protest. 

“This is a deliberately peaceful action … We don’t obviously want to upset all of the varying authorities that will be there at the event, the combination of federal agents and local police, and campus police,” Hancock said. 

With the debate just around the corner, SDS is finalizing the route for the march and their speakers’ list. 

“We’re ambitious and we’re hopeful that it’ll have a big impact. It’s the first time that most of us have ever interacted with an event of this national scale so it’s exciting to have the opportunity to express our message through this medium,” Hancock said.


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