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Vandalized pro-Palestinian memorial removed in Salt Lake City



SALT LAKE CITY — A controversial pro-Palestinian memorial on the grounds of the Salt Lake City-County Building — vandalized on Friday — is now gone per terms of the city permit issued to the contingent that installed it.

But the advocates have applied for a new permit to reinstall it in July as the Israel-Hamas war — the spark behind the memorial — continues.

“It’s about ending the violence against Palestine,” said Michael Valentine, one of the forces behind the memorial.

Aziz Abuzayed, originally from Gaza and now living in Utah, said the plans to seek a new permit to reinstall the memorial also aim to send a message to those who might be inclined to push back against their efforts, like the suspected vandal from Friday. “We will not be intimidated by individual acts of violence,” he said.

Several local pro-Palestinian groups, including the Palestinian Solidarity Forum of Utah and Utah for a Ceasefire, installed the memorial in late April in response to the deaths of more than 30,000 in Gaza in the Israel-Hamas war. The permit allowing the installation expired Sunday, when the memorial was removed, but just ahead of that, on Friday, a man vandalized it, throwing Palestinian flags in a trash can and leaving behind a bundle of U.S. flags.

“They basically ripped out every single thing on the display, including the flags,” said Abuzayed, who calls the vandalism “a hate crime.” The vandal also crumpled up photos Abuzayed says show people killed by Israeli forces during the Israel-Hamas war and before.

The Salt Lake City Police Department said a 29-year-old man had been detained in connection with the vandalism — depicted in pictures posted to social media by Utah For a Ceasefire — but little more.

“The case is being reviewed by detectives and will be screened with the district attorney’s office. No arrests have been made. The motive and circumstances remain unknown at this point,” police said.

The memorial was the focus of earlier controversy after Salt Lake officials posted signage on the city grounds around it specifying that the display was not connected to nor endorsed by the city. Andrew Wittenberg, spokesman for Mayor Erin Mendenhall, said the city had received calls from people wondering if the display was sponsored by the city, prompting the signage as “a clarification.”

Valentine and others, nevertheless, took umbrage. Valentine later removed the signage and put it in his car, advising Mendenhall via his Instagram account to let him know where to put it. He was subsequently detained by police on suspicion of theft but told KSL.com on Monday that formal charges have not been filed against him. He also faces investigation by Salt Lake police in connection with pro-Palestinian protesting on the University of Utah campus.

“I guess we’ll see what happens with Sim Gill’s office,” Valentine said, referring to the district attorney.

Israel has been pursuing leaders of Hamas in Gaza since Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 Israelis and taking many hostage. Around 35,000 in Gaza have died in the violence, Reuters reported Monday.



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