Demonstrators protest death of Ogden man at Halloween party

Saturday , November 11, 2017 - 6:06 PM

BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner

Curressia Walton and a man who goes by the nickname "Chicago" embrace at Lester Park in Ogden during a rally for William Torrence on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. Walton and Chicago were with Torrence two weeks earlier when he died following a fight outside a Halloween party. They say the fight started after men at the party yelled racial slurs and threw something at their car. Some witnesses at the party dispute that account and officials have not yet released an official cause of death.

JACOB SCHOLL, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Dozens of people gathered in Ogden’s Lester Park Saturday to protest the death of William Torrence, a black man who died Saturday, Oct. 28. 

The protest was conducted at the same spot where Torrence was found unresponsive following a fight outside a Halloween party that took place nearby. Many of the protesters believe Torrence was killed by white people because of his race.

Some of those who attended spoke and shared their experiences with Torrence no more than a few feet from where he was found by paramedics two weeks prior. 

“We have to keep fighting,” said Lex Scott, founder of the United Front Party and one of the event’s organizers. “We’re not going to let this happen silently.”

The park swelled with noise at different points of the rally, with attendees chanting phrases like “No justice, no peace,” and “Stand up, fight back.”

Malik Dayo, one of the event’s organizers, said Utahns need to to stand up against racial hatred. 

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He pointed to incidents such as students at Woods Cross High School chanting “build the wall” during a football game and a Halloween sign in Roy that said “Make America Great Again, Purge and Purify” as examples of racism.

During the event, a man attempted to interfere with the protest. The man, who did not provide his name to the Standard-Examiner, held up signs and chanted “All lives matter” in an attempt to drown out speakers. 

After the counterprotester left the main speaking area, local activist and Weber State University staff member Betty Sawyer began to speak to the group. 

“It’s not about that,” Sawyer said, gesturing toward the counterprotester. “It’s about all of us.” 

“The only way things change is if we stand up.”

Sawyer also said working with community organizations like schools and law enforcement agencies will help address social issues. 

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Exact details of what led to Torrence’s death are still in question, with witnesses describing the events differently.

Curressia Walton said the events of Oct. 28 are still difficult to understand. 

Walton said she and Torrence were attacked by a number of white people. She said the fight was racially motivated, and Torrence was killed because he was a black man.

Law enforcement officials have given a rough outline of the events leading up to the fight, but many questions remain. 

Capt. Danielle Croyle of the Ogden Police Department said the incident began with a car that stopped near 684 24th St. to allow pedestrians to cross the road. A vehicle behind the stopped car became impatient, tried to pass the stopped car and nearly hit the pedestrians, Croyle said.

As the impatient vehicle drove away, a bystander apparently threw something at the vehicle, which led to the driver turning the car around and approaching the pedestrians. When the occupants of the vehicle approached the pedestrians, a fight broke out, Croyle said.

The exact events of that Saturday night differ depending on with whom you speak. Some say the fight started due to people yelling racial slurs and Torrence was killed by a number of white men, while others say Torrence and others were looking for trouble and instigated the fight.

Police have not yet released Torrence’s cause of death.

Lt. Tim Scott of the OPD said Wednesday the incident is still under investigation. Scott said police have interviewed more than 50 people and are still looking for additional witness statements.

Witnesses who have not yet talked to police are encouraged to call OPD Detective Larry Lewis at 801-629-8438 or email the police at detectives@ogdencity.com

Contact reporter Jacob Scholl at jscholl@standard.net or follow him on Twitter @Jacob_Scholl.