After A Small Protest Sunday At Utah's Capitol, Little More Is Expected
Hundreds of police officers, highway patrol and National Guard members joined forces at the Utah State Capitol Sunday, in anticipation of a potentially violent protest. But the day came and went largely without incident.
In the end, less than 20 demonstrators showed up, dwarfed by law enforcement officers, reporters and spectators, who had either come to watch the events unfold or simply passed by coincidentally, unaware that anything was going on.
“I was very surprised,” said Jolene Henning, who was visiting her daughter from Iowa and happened by the event as they were riding bikes. “I am fully aware that they were doing this at all state capitols. But I clued it out. I didn't think about it at all.”
The majority of demonstrators, about eight to 10, were armed members of the Boogaloo Bois, an anarchist group that has advocated for a civil war. The members who appeared in Salt Lake City on Sunday, however, made no mention of civil war and said they did not plan on their protest getting violent.
They refused to give their names and while they were adamant they were not supporters of a particular political party, their message was mostly a loose call for smaller government and individual rights. About five Trump supporters also showed up waving flags, but were mostly quiet.
Utah leaders reacted positively to Sunday’s event. Gov. Spencer Cox tweeted it was a “best-case scenario as many agitating groups cancelled their plans and those that came were peaceful.”
Former Gov. Gary Herbert also sent his appreciation on Twitter “for the good work of our public safety officials.”
Lt. Col. Jaime Thomas, public affairs officer for the Utah National Guard, said it wasn’t clear why the event was so much smaller than expected. But she was glad it stayed peaceful.
“Everyone has the right to peacefully assemble and protest,” Thomas said. “So our job is to make sure above all, we're there to protect the lives, property and [rights of] our citizens to peacefully protest and assemble. “
She said the National Guard will be on standby in case any other major events come up and is coordinating with other law enforcement agencies, chiefly the Utah Highway Patrol.
UHP spokesman Nick Street said the capitol complex will remain closed to the public over the next few days.
Cox declared a state of emergency last week in anticipation of violence, which will remain in place through the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden Wednesday.
The grounds are still open, however, and could see small gatherings of protestors, though nothing major is expected.
“The institution that is our state capital is a place for those to voice their First Amendment rights,” Street said. “And there's a lot of goings-on in our democracy over the next few days — the presidential inauguration, our state legislative session, the governor's state of the state address. And with those things will come opportunities for those that want to to have their voice heard.”
He said it would probably take a major national event to bring the same level of law enforcement back to the capitol.