LDS plaza video shows scuffle, but no kiss

Confrontation » Gay man says guards told him affection was 'disgusting,' 'gross' and 'wrong.'
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Matt Aune puts his arm around his partner, Derek Jones, pulling him close as four large men in dark suits gather around them July 9 on the Main Street Plaza.

The couple argue with the LDS Church guards, who yank the two men apart and put them in handcuffs. Jones falls to the ground.

Newly released security-film footage shows this scuffle, which ensued after Jones and Aune were stopped after they kissed on the church-owned plaza. The Salt Lake Tribune obtained the film through an open-records request with Salt Lake City.

"It's as violent as I remember them being," Aune said. "I'm kind of wondering where the kiss is though."

That much-debated smooch is not in the film the church provided to Salt Lake City prosecutor Sim Gill as part of a city investigation into trespassing charges leveled against the gay couple.

Aune and Jones have said their romantic moment was modest: Aune gave Jones a "side hug" and a kiss on the face. But the LDS Church said "much more" was involved -- "passionate kissing, groping, profane and lewd language." (The couple have acknowledged they swore at the guards after being stopped.)

"When they became belligerent, the two individuals were asked to leave church property," the church said in a statement earlier this month. "Church security detained them and Salt Lake City police were called."

Gill dropped the trespassing case Wednesday, saying that signs on the downtown plaza did not properly notify visitors that they were entering private property "at will," meaning they could be ejected at any time for any reason.

The prosecutor said Thursday he asked the church for all audio and video recordings of the incident, including the kiss.

"I assume there's nothing more because I was provided with everything," Gill said. "My request wasn't selective."

The LDS Church declined to comment on the video or its plans for signs and access to the plaza.

The grainy black-and-white film lacks sound and is shot from one camera, which appears to have a human at the controls, panning and zooming in to capture the encounter.

The argument between the guards and the gay couple becomes heated. Two guards gesture emphatically with their hands, and Aune jabs his finger in the air.

Three guards grab Aune and one pulls on Jones, who then falls out of the shot. Aune is momentarily obscured behind a large tree.

"I looked to my left," Aune recalled, "and [Jones] was down on the ground with his left cheek on the pavement, looking at me."

The LDS Church, in its July 17 statement, said the two were asked to "stop engaging in behavior deemed inappropriate for any couple on the plaza."

But Aune and Jones say they were targeted because they are gay.

The guards, Aune said Thursday, told them their display of affection was "disgusting," "gross" and "wrong."

Supporters of the couple have staged two "kiss-in" demonstrations at the Main Street Plaza, and a similar rally -- part of a nationwide event -- has been scheduled for Aug. 15 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at downtown's Washington Square.

Jones and Aune said this week they are ready to move on and do not plan to file a lawsuit over the matter.