SALT LAKE CITY – Activists shut down a Utah Inland Port Authority meeting in Salt Lake City Wednesday afternoon, leading to board members walking out of the meeting.
As soon as the monthly board meeting began in the gym of North Star Elementary School, a group from Civil Riot walked in with a bullhorn and banners.
"Board members: You have been listening, you haven't been responding," Civil Riot organizer Ethan Petersen said on the bullhorn, as he walked toward the front of the gym.
Two Facebook live videos show how the interaction played out.
At one point, the group chants, “Whose land? Our land! Whose land? Our land!”
They linked arms in solidarity.
While public comment was on the agenda for the meeting, the board indicated that it wasn’t meant to be in this form.
"We are going to have a people's port meeting," Petersen said on his bullhorn.
Civil Riot called it a ‘people’s port meeting.’ The Utah Inland Port Authority called it a ‘disruption.’
To Civil Riot members like Adair Kovac, this was the only way they felt they could speak up about the controversial inland port.
“This fight, is a fight that we’re in, and it's important,” Kovac said. “And we can't just ignore it.”
The proposed import/export center would sit on a huge chunk of land in Salt Lake City’s northwest corner.
Kovac explained their concerns—from potential impacts on environment and wildlife, to transportation congestion problems and negative effects on neighboring communities.
“And yet still, the [port board’s] been going on without listening to the public... They've left us with no other choice to let ourselves be heard,” Kovac said.
“Abort the port! Abort the port!” protesters chanted, at the board.
The board called off their meeting several minutes after Civil Riot members arrived. It’s unclear if and when they’ll reschedule.
"I'm sorry to the members of the public, and especially those who came to make special presentations," a port authority board member said, before board members got up and exited the room.
The Utah Inland Port Authority Board later issued a statement about canceling the board meeting:
"This evening an individual with a bullhorn and banners disrupted the Utah Inland Port Authority Board meeting. After the chair explained they could be heard during the public comment period, the individual continued the disruptive behavior and the meeting was adjourned. The Authority meets monthly to conduct business, hear presentations from stakeholder groups and receive public comment. Unfortunately, none of this could happen including a presentation from the Great Salt Lake Audubon on a buffer zone for environmental preservation. It is regrettable when an individual obstructs the opportunity and rights of the general public to be heard. The Utah Inland Port Authority Board remains committed to working collaboratively with all interested parties to address growth and challenges in a productive and safe environment."