Press Release: Better Utah statement on community activist arrests


Salt Lake City, UT – Last night, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that protesters Madalena McNeil and Martin Oliveros were arrested and charged with first degree felonies with a gang enhancement for their involvement in protests against the Salt Lake County DA’s office. The charges could be punishable by a life sentence. McNeil has been a prominent organizer through Salt Lake Valley Covid Mutual Aid, making sure that protesters have food, water, and masks. 

Chase Thomas, executive director for Alliance for a Better Utah, issued the following statement:

“In bringing exorbitant charges for low-level offenses against activists and organizers, the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office, whether intentional or not, is sending a message to the public about the way it sees protests against police brutality. By choosing to bring disproportionate felony charges, District Attorney Sim Gill is reinforcing the narrative of an unjust, punitive criminal justice system that people have been protesting in the first place.

“If Gill is serious about respecting the Black Lives Matter movement and ending police brutality, he has a responsibility to reflect that by carefully deciding how to respond to civil disobedience. These overly aggressive charges will only continue to erode the trust the public has in our law enforcement and criminal justice systems when Gill should be doing everything he can to restore that trust.”


Alliance for a Better Utah is a nonprofit that holds politicians accountable and advocates for progressive policies that make Utah an even better place. The organization improves the lives of all Utahns through advocacy, transparency, and accountability in Utah politics, policy, and government. More information at

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