Protesters Gather at the District Attorney’s Office to Demand Justice for Lauren McCluskey

Protestors+tape+%27Justice+for+Lauren%27+signs+to+the+doors+of+the+District+Attorney%27s+office+in+downtown+Salt+Lake+City+on+Oct.+21%2C+2020.+%28Photo+by+Mark+Draper+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29

Mark Draper

Protestors tape ‘Justice for Lauren’ signs to the doors of the District Attorney’s office in downtown Salt Lake City on Oct. 21, 2020. (Photo by Mark Draper | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Porshai Nielsen, News Writer

 

 

On Oct. 21, 2020, UnsafeU, a student-run organization unaffiliated with the University of Utah, organized a protest outside the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office after the decision was made by District Attorney Sim Gill to not prosecute Miguel Deras, a former University of Utah police officer who showed explicit photos of Lauren McCluskey to his co-workers. 

Community members, students and the U student body leadership attended the protest which began at Washington Square Park and ended on the steps of Sim Gill’s office. As they marched they carried signs that said, “Sim Gill, there is blood on your hands” and “Sim Gill is a danger to the public.” 

In May 2020, The Salt Lake Tribune broke the news that Deras had shown the photos to his co-workers. Following the report of this happening, Deras quit the UUPD and got a job with the Logan City Police Department, which he has since been fired from. 

The UUPD released a report in August 2020 which stated the photos were not downloaded by Deras onto his personal phone — as previously thought — however, they were shared among coworkers.

On Oct. 14, 2020, Gill declined to prosecute Deras because there was not being a law in place to charge him with. Unsafe.U and protesters disagree and believe he could be prosecuted under the Utah Revenge Porn Law, 76-5b-203 (a) and (b). 

“We must not be mistaken by assuming Sim Gill was seeking justice in this case. It is evident that he does not care about women, that he does not care about people who are violated by these crimes, (or) about the victims and survivors and families of those who have suffered from domestic violence and abuse,” said Rebecca Hardenbrook, a graduate student at the University of Utah and founder of Unsafe.U. 

Unsafe.U encouraged attendees to knock on doors, contact Utah State representatives and the Peace Officer Standards and Training office to demand that Deras have his certification as an officer revoked. 

Student body president Ephraim Kum and vice president of university relations, Ayana Amaechi, spoke during the protest, addressing injustices they have seen in Salt Lake City and on-campus.

Kum specifically wanted to address men’s role in gender-based violence.

“Our tendency to not believe women, survivors and victims has to stop. And most of all, our tendency to be aware of our privilege and power and not do anything about it, or even worse, add to the harm, has to stop. We need to hold each other accountable, we cannot wait another day to do so,” Kum said. 

Protestors listened to each speech while holding candles lit in Lauren McCluskey’s honor. Brooke Martin, one of McCluskey’s close friends, was unable to attend but wrote a poem entitled, “I am here for a reason,” to be read in her honor. 

The following day, Oct. 22, two years since her death, the U agreed to pay McCluskey’s parents $13.5 million in a legal settlement. For the first time in two years, it has been acknowledged that her death was preventable. 

“The university acknowledges and deeply regrets that it did not handle Lauren’s case as it should have and that, at the time, its employees failed to fully understand and respond appropriately to Lauren’s situation. As a result, we failed Lauren and her family. If these employees had more complete training and protocols to guide their responses, the university believes they would have been better equipped to protect Lauren,” said President Ruth Watkins during the press conference. 

Tonight, on Oct. 22 at 6 p.m., there will be a vigil held in McCluskey’s honor at the District Attorney’s Office. Those in attendance are encouraged to wear her favorite color, purple.

 

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@porshainielsen