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Private Eye

Der Plaza

Jackboots and hoodlums on the Main Street Plaza.

By John Saltas
Posted // July 15,2009 -

One, two, three: “scissors.” My opponent has rock. I lose. One, two, three: “scissors.” He has paper. I win. Now comes the tie-breaking third match. My opponent looks devious. He’s trying to get me to reveal something, I can just tell. You can always tell with people like him. You just can. It’s never enough for his kind to win a little bit. He wants to win it all. He wants all the attention. He can’t stand to be without attention.

He wants me to tip my hand, to give him a clue. He has an agenda, that’s for sure. I can tell by his wispy facial hair. People with wispy facial hair always have an agenda. There’s something about his eyes, too. It’s plain as day that he just wants to embarrass me. He thinks he looks good when I look bad. He’s up to something. He has an agenda.

One, two, three: “rock.” He has paper. I lose. We had bet that I could not be forced to become gay.

But just like that, the person sitting across my desk, Derek Jones, successfully made me a gay convert. He couldn’t beat me at arm wrestling. We tried that. He couldn’t stare me down. We could have had a boxing match, a home-run derby, a drinking contest or any other manly-man duel. We passed on coin flips, guess-my-weight, and shortstraws before settling into rock, paper, scissors. Now, I begin my first day as a gay man in Utah. This will be hard news for my kids. My mother will be surprised. Once my wife quits cheering, she’ll be happy to learn that I’ve already become expert at not only separating whites from colors, but I can wash, iron and fold, too.

I’ve known Derek since he began working at City Weekly. He’s a great guy, a fine employee who attracts attention like oil attracts water. As the world now knows (my son was asked about it while vacationing on Santorini), Derek is also gay. Following a Gallivan Center concert last Thursday, Derek and his partner, Matthew Aune, began walking home. They live just a few blocks north of Gallivan, on Main Street. Between their home and the Gallivan is the Main Street Plaza, owned, maintained and black-boot protected by the LDS Church.

With a backdrop of lawsuits predicting exactly the Derek/Matt scenario, the church bought that block of Main Street from Salt Lake City in the late 1990s. In time, Main Street morphed into the Main Street Plaza you see today—a Burma Road, a gantlet, a no-man’s land bereft of the free expression that used to come with the constitutional rights afforded everyone traversing that very public section of Main Street. (I get it: It’s private property. The church can do what it wants. Some behavior is tolerated, some is not. Policy is inconsistent. Now, shut up and go back to the Tribune comment boards.)

On July 9, just yards from exiting the Plaza, Matt pulled Derek towards him and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Derek says that particular public display of affection (PDA) was spontaneous and nothing more. But, I asked him, all those people commenting on the Deseret News, KSL and Salt Lake Tribune Websites can’t be wrong, can they? You can tell me, Derek, I cooed—you were really getting it on just to prove a point, weren’t you? You were having sex, weren’t you? You knew people were watching, yet insulted them and the LDS Church, too, didn’t you? You have an agenda, don’t you?

Since I’d only been on Derek’s team a few minutes, he had no reason to lie to me. “No,” he said. “We were just walking home. It was late, and it was dark. We couldn’t see anyone. If we had an agenda, wouldn’t we wait until someone was looking?” Someone was. Derek’s cheek was still moist when security guards dressed in black approached from the darkness and asked the couple to leave. They said PDAs weren’t allowed on the plaza. But as plaza-walking veterans who, like everyone else, had witnessed plaza saliva-sharing before, Derek and Matt knew better. They didn’t know better to shut up, though. They asked why their PDA was different than that of other couples.

The security goons were stumped. Derek and his partner became defiant. More security guards were summoned. Take a question, add two parts differing opinion, one part confusion, 10 parts homophobia, blend with some fear and swearing and, before you can say Liberace, the two shouting and scared gays were separated and handcuffed, and Derek was forced to the ground. At very nearly the same time, Derek heard one of the rent-a-cops say their PDA was disgusting. He could have been looking in a mirror.

On Monday, July 13, Carole Mikita (aka KSL TV’s ace-in-the-hole Church apologist) held up the Salt Lake City Police report citing Derek and Matt for trespassing. That report says Matt smelled of alcohol. The nitwits commenting on the site understood the secret signal to smear the couple by alluding that smelling alcohol equates to public drunkenness. In Utah, being gay is one thing, but being a drunken gay is a whole other kingdom.

“It was already reported I had one beer at Gallivan,” said Derek. Ah, come on, Derek. What was your real plan? “Our plan was to go home. We weren’t drunk, and we didn’t have an agenda,” he repeated. “All anybody has to do is look at the security cameras.” Yikes! They have cameras?

If they do, here’s the rub: The jackboots who wrestled Derek Jones to the ground, did so stone-cold sober; no excuses. At about 120 pounds when sopping wet, Derek’s not only a great rocks, paper, scissors player, he’s a better man than the hoodlums patrolling the LDS Church Main Street Plaza.


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Posted // July 20,2009 at 09:17

Stand fast SLC. It starts innocently enough with a homosexual kiss, then it evolves into city wide banners declaring: we’re here…(ad nauseam), pride parades, and even creepier Folsom St. style fairs (where tolerance of public displays of homosexual sex is condoned SF city hall and enforced by the police). Then some homosexuals become elected to political office and while your city is grappling with education, crime, and economic issues, those pols will be focused on homosexual concerns i.e: "milk day" and pink fog in the Castro. They’ll demand absolute access to all of your institutions, but will legislate homosexual ONLY services and programs. They also require a captive audience (with no opt-out option), in K-12 grade schools to further promote their agenda. Your ERs will have to deal with “wayward anal insertions”, and an obscene increase in the rate of STD cases(look it up on the CDC website). Don’t let it start with the acceptance of an “innocent kiss”. Barricade the gates SLC; preserve your pristine society. One can only look at SF and see what a chamber pot it's become.


Posted // July 17,2009 at 20:09


In your “Der Plaza” article, you write that your employee Mr. Jones -- Derek, as you call him -- told you he and his friend are innocent victims, and you believe him because, as you say, Derek “had no reason to lie.”

According to Derek, the incident on Main Street Plaza was nothing more than this: “Matt pulled Derek towards him and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Derek says that particular public display of affection (PDA) was spontaneous and nothing more.”

So you write your article defending Derek’s side of the story, painting him and his friend as innocent victims of LDS “jackboots” and “hoodlums”, and you publish the story in your paper. Why is their little “peck on the cheek” any different from that of other couples on the plaza?, you ask.

Now, those “jackboots” claim in a statement issued on Friday that Derek and his friend were asked “to stop engaging in behavior deemed inappropriate for any couple on the plaza”; that their behavior was “more involved than a simple kiss.” In fact, the statement says Derek and his friend “engaged in passionate kissing, groping, profane and lewd language” and “became belligerent” when asked to leave. In short, Derek and his friend engaged in behavior unfit for public as well as private property.


I don’t know who is right and who is wrong, but this little incident merits three observations:

1. Your employee, Derek, may not be as honest as you think. After all, if those “jackboots” are right, he lied to you. But not only did he lie to you, he lied to you knowing you would write an article in his defense and publish it in your paper -- the paper that provides your livelihood--, thereby putting your own credibility on the line.

2. If the “hoodlums” are right, you’re not just a loyal employer; you are one gullible guy.

3. Your response to the incident serves to reinforce what many say about your paper: it jumps to conclusions, fails to recognize and deal with all the facts relevant to a story, and always blindly sides with anyone who is critical of the LDS Church and other Utah institutions.

It will be of great interest to follow this tale and see where it ends. I understand a hearing is set for next week. Will you attend and report -- truthfully -- on the evidence presented and the outcome?


Posted // August 8,2009 at 22:07 - It's really true that people will believe what they want to believe. You know, I recently told an old acquaintance of mine a very personal story about how my partner is left holding the bill for nearly a thousand unexpected dollars after receiving doctor-recommended in-network tests (such as a colonoscopy - his insurance almost didn't pay for that one at all because he'd had one before - they tried to say it was a 'pre-existing condition.') Then, I told him that the World Health Organization found that the United States ranks 37th in its performance, 72nd in overall level of health (and even cited my sources). But do you know what he said? That the US health care system isn't broken, and we have the best medical care in the world. He also said - without being willing or able to cite any statistics or sources - that "we'll all be sorry when we find out the real high cost of free health care." ??? The point I'm trying to make is... people who go into an argument with their minds made up are rarely going to change their way of thinking. Having been a friend for over a decade and a former employee, I know a bit about John Saltas. He's a really good person who has spent his adulthood trying to make sure the "other side" of the story gets told in Utah, however inconvenient that might be for the opposing side or those who can't wrap their head around hearing about its faults. But, knowing this, John will still try to engage in meaningful dialog with a person who is sticking their fingers in their ears and singing "LALALALALA" at the top of their lungs. I'm not going to point any fingers, but it might be a certain someone who has been posting comments about this story accusing the City Weekly employee, Derek, of lying, and John Saltas of being whatever bad thing he could think of. Couldn't just be Derek is telling the truth, and John honestly wants to help him? Nah. The truth has got to be something far more insidious... because the alternative would force a very tricky possibility into a very unwilling mind.


Posted // July 21,2009 at 14:26 - Alan. Waaay too much specious analysis, blind assumptions and wishful thinking on your part for my adolescent mind. But, will grant that I was full of shit on the claim to higher ground--should have said, we tend to side with the little guy against the big guy and left it at that. If the story as it was told to me is the big, fat lie you want it to be, we'll all know soon enough, won't we? I will take the dollar, though. Danke.


Posted // July 19,2009 at 07:18 - Alan Yes, I call Derek, Derek, not Mr. Jones. I seldom refer to City Weekly employees in a formal sense except for our publsher who I always call Mr. Rizzi. I am also not a reporter but know enough to read what I condemn before doing so. Thus I part with your assertion that Derek told me that he and his partners were innocent victims. As well, I'd like to know how you know Derek is lying to me or anyone else. If you want the truth, remember it goes both ways for you too. Merely that you want it to be so, doesn't make it so. And believe it or not, our siding with victims or oppressed is neither political or religious in basis. We side with the wronged, period. Oh, if Derek's story as I told it is correct, you'll buy me a beer, right? I'll take it up to one of those jackboots and have him open it with his teeth. Respectfully, John Saltas


Posted // July 17,2009 at 16:51

If a security video exists, it will never see the light of day. The church has probably already destroyed it, because it could expose the lie of their new claim that the couple was practically having sex while swearing up a storm, so obviously the only thing the guards could do was cuff them. =P


Posted // July 20,2009 at 11:47 - John, Interesting. However, your response tends to underscore what I wrote: you tend to jump to conclusions and fail to recognize and deal with all the facts relevant to a story. Read my comment again, this time with some careful thought. First, you say, “Thus I part with your assertion that Derek told me that he and his partners (sic) were innocent victims.” But that’s exactly what you wrote in “Der Plaza”. There, it states, “Matt pulled Derek towards him and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Derek says that particular public display of affection (PDA) was spontaneous and nothing more.” My point is that, now that the LDS Church has issued its own version about what happened, and if that version is true, your employee is not the innocent victim he claims to be. Second, the LDS Church's statement says a lot more happened that night than just one man pulling another towards him and giving him a peck on the cheek. By doing so, it calls into serious question your employee’s version of the story. As I mentioned in my comment, the fact that there is another side of the story that is so different from your employee's version, only serves to emphasize your willingness to jump to one side of a story before you hear both sides. Third, you ask, “I'd like to know how you know Derek is lying to me or anyone else.” If you re-read my comment, you will see that I wrote, “I don’t know who is right and who is wrong”; then my comment states that “if those ‘jackboots’ are right, he (your employee) lied to you.” Thus, you again jump to criticism without first recognizing and dealing with “all the facts relevant to a story”; or in this case, a reader’s comments. Did you skim over your employee's version of the story in the same way that you skimmed over my comment? That is, jumping to conclusions without much analysis or reflection? Fourth, and last, I am not impressed with your claim to the higher ground: “our siding with victims or oppressed is neither political or (sic) religious in basis. We side with the wronged, period.” If that were the case -- note, again, the word “if” -- you wouldn’t be so quick to take sides. But you ARE quick to take sides; too quick. With your clever headline, “Der Plaza”, and your labeling of others as “jackboots” and “hoodlums”, you invoke Nazi Party imagery, imagery that thoughtful adults would only characterize as thoughtless exaggeration. In other words, it doesn’t help anyone’s cause, especially the cause of your oppressed and victimized employee. And no, I won’t buy you a beer -- or make you promise to buy me one. Although buying a bottle of your favorite brand would likely set me back no more than a dollar, I prefer to keep my association with your paper, and those who associate with it, to the internet minimum. But thank you anyway.


Posted // July 15,2009 at 22:14

Did they honest-to-Jesus use the acronym PDA? If so, I bet it would have been tempting to say PDA???!? Those are so 1999. Check out my iPhone bay-bee!

But seriously, this homophobia KSL coverup doesn't come as a surprise. Doesn't KSL advertise themselves as being the only honest news on local TV. That certainly doesn't sound suspect. ;)

I went to high school with Matt. I found out a while back that he'd come out of the closet, and part of me was surprised, whereas part of me wasn't.

Even though I knew of him to be a little bit of a rebel in high school (we all were weren't we--except me), I think that intentionally trying to cause a scene is not his style. Even if it were, you would think that the security guards would be adult enough to refrain from handcuffing. I haven't heard a single account of anyone stating that the guards, or anyone on the plaza were in any danger, and that no crimes had been committed. Even if the security guards' reaction was considered lawful, it certainly can't be considered ethical.


Posted // July 15,2009 at 16:04

your portrayal of the accused really does shed some light on the subject. that ksl had to point out that they had been drinking is ridiculous. the beer was most likely purchased legally at the gallivan. i certainly hope that the public gets to see a video of the incident. this should be fun to watch...


Posted // July 15,2009 at 17:58 - The question that needs to be asked is were they perceived as committing sin? More importantly, is sinning against the property rules posted on the property?