Over 4,000 Utahns made their way up to the Utah State Capitol on Saturday to rally together and send a message to state elected leaders. Many protesters showed up with gas or surgical masks and carried homemade signs petitioning a change for Utah’s bad air quality.
“It’s time for a change, and the change needs to happen now,” says Brittany Allred, English major at Salt Lake Community College. “I have asthma, and the bad air quality has been horrible for my health. I’m glad that this [rally] was organized. I hope it sends this urgent message out to those that can make a difference.”
Speakers, including Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, Utah Moms for Clean Air founder Cherise Udell and former KSL-TV news anchor Dick Nourse, shared in the message of a bigger change for better air quality.
“The most fundamental right there is, is the right to breathe clean air,” said Dr. Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “Air pollution tarnishes our community reputation; it erodes our quality of life and stifles our economy, much as it does our lungs.”
Many calls to action were demonstrated throughout the rally including the chant of “Clean air, no excuses” that was repeated loudly in hopes that state leaders would be able to hear. Others expressed their frustration through music including Salt Lake City musician Tom Bennett’s original song “Governor, We Cannot Breathe.”
Speakers urged the crowd to use their voices to bring the message to Utah lawmakers by reaching out through letters, e-mail and signing petitions.
“I would like our leaders to be aware that this is an important issue to a lot of Utahns including themselves,” says Kyle Flanders, a Salt Lake City resident. “Even our elected officials are affected by the dirty air and the subsequent health and economic consequences. This is something they do have power to influence, and they should use that to influence a positive change in our state and communities.”
As the rally concluded, the message was clear that everyone can do something to help in this problem to generate a solution.
“I hope that this rally increases public awareness about the issue and allows people to see what measures they can take to help the situation,” says Flanders. “I hope that it helps people realize that they are not powerless in this and that being involved can make a difference in their lives.”