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State Troopers Arrest Protestors at Capitol Sit-in for LGBT Rights

Andrea Smardon
Protestors defy orders from the Utah Highway Patrol, and sit in front of the Governor's office.

A dozen protestors were taken away from the Utah Capitol Monday afternoon in handcuffs. The protestors were there to demand that an LGBT anti-discrimination bill be considered. They were arrested when they blocked the entrance of a Senate Committee hearing.

The Utah Highway Patrol asked about 15 protestors to step away from the door to the Governor’s office saying they were posing a safety hazard in the event of a fire or emergency. A spokesperson for the group Troy Williams made it clear that the group was prepared to be arrested. Their demand was a hearing of Senate Bill 100, which bans discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.

“If the LGBT’s community’s access to democracy has been blocked, then we will symbolically use our bodies to block the governor’s office, and we will be here until we get the guarantee that SB100 will be heard or we are forcibly removed,” Williams said.

Senate leaders have said they do not want to consider any bill regarding LGBT issues or civil liberties until the state’s case appealing a gay marriage ruling is decided in federal court. The bill’s sponsor Republican Steve Urquhart took the group’s message to Senate President Wayne Neiderhauser, who agreed to discuss the issue in a closed caucus the following day, and to hold a more public meeting in a week. The protestors said they would not be satisfied until they got a guarantee that the bill would be considered.

They then moved to block the entrance to a Senate committee meeting, and that’s when the state troopers decided to arrest them.

“People have to show up to make a change. It is so much time,” protestor Gail Murdoch said as she was handcuffed.

The protestors were informed that they may be charged with a class B misdemeanor for interference with a public servant, or a third degree felony for obstructing lawmakers from their meeting. Michael Westley says he feels good about what the group accomplished.

“We made a stand, and we got some attention, and the conversation is going to move forward, so today is a success,” Westley says. 

But the protestors may have hurt their cause with some. Alexandra Eframo is a citizen who was blocked from entering the meeting, She was there to support an unrelated education bill.

“I have two very good friends who are gay, I love them to death, and I am against discrimination, but after this thing, no way, I’m going to turn my head the other way. This kind of stuff is absurd. That’s not how you do it. You don’t block another citizens right to go into their own committee meeting,” says Eframo.

The protestors were taken to Salt Lake County jail. Now they wait to find out if their protest will have any effect on the debate between lawmakers.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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