A thick cloud of haze blanketed Salt Lake City on Saturday afternoon, as more than one thousand protestors carrying signs and donning hats shaped like bears ears took to the steps of the Utah State Capitol to protest President Trump’s impending arrival in the city on Monday, and the rumored announcement to rescind the boundaries of the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah by 85 percent that he’s bringing with him.
During an afternoon “Rally Against Trump’s Monumental Mistake” organized by a handful of conservation groups including Kids Speak For Parks, the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity and The Wilderness Society, the leaders of the five tribes of The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition (composed of the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni and the Ute Indian Tribe) stood together overlooking a passionate and enthusiastic crowd that spilled out from the steps of the capitol across the lawn and throughout the residential area of Capitol Hill.
The protest began with a prayer and drifted into a series of speeches from people like Ethel Branch, the attorney general of the Navajo Nation who highlighted the importance of Bears Ears as a place of healing, prayer and togetherness (pointing out that the land of Bears Ears brought together the five nations in unity) and finished her speech by inviting President Trump to visit Bears Ears and take his shoes off and feel his toes touch the sand.
“I want to challenge the president. I want him to visit Bears Ears before he takes any action,” she said.
Through a quivering voice, and a few tears, Salt Lake City mayor, Jackie Biskupski (D), with her family standing by her side, spoke of the importance of protecting public lands for future generations.
“The future will judge us by what we leave behind,” she said. “I just want you all to keep fighting and protect our national monuments.
But it was 10-year-old Robbie Bond who brought down the house by sharing stories of what public land means to him. The founder of Kids Speak For Parks stood before the eager crowd and explained his mission to educate kids across the country of the importance of public lands.
“I believe it’s really hard to educate people about something if you don’t even know what you’re educating them about,” he said. Bond, a Hawaii native, is on a mission to visit all 27 national monuments under review by Trump’s administration, and share his explorations with kids at schools across America.
Having already visited 12 of the 27 national monuments on the list, Bond ended his time at the podium with a message of hope.
“I just want all of you to keep fighting to and protect our national monuments,” he said to a crowd that erupted into applause in solidarity.