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Small group of protesters arrives at Utah Capitol Sunday morning amid strong police presence

SALT LAKE CITY — State law enforcement officers and Utah National Guard members far outnumbered a small group of armed protesters on the grounds of the Utah Capitol complex just before noon on Sunday.

About a dozen armed demonstrators stood together on the lawn near the south entrance. One man with a bullhorn said the show of force by police and National Guard members was overdone for what he said was intended to be a peaceful gathering.

Utah National Guard Specialist Alejandro Castaneda, left, and 2nd Lt. Cody Preszler stand guard before the planned protest at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2src2src.

Utah National Guard Specialist Alejandro Castaneda, left, and 2nd Lt. Cody Preszler stand guard before the planned protest at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2020.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“The fear-mongering is taking this country in a downward spiral,” the man said. “This is a joke.”

A moment later he added, “we do not support the dictator Donald Trump in office. … This is the easiest state of emergency I’ve ever witnessed.”

One man, who declined to share his name but identified himself as a member of the group Bois of Liberty, said their concerns were not based on partisan politics.

“We’re in a place right now in our nation where people are worried and there’s a big turning point for us when it comes to the types of laws that we see people passing,” he told the Deseret News. “And it’s not just with the new administration. We’ve seen a ton of tyrannical laws being passed through Trump’s administration.

“And it’s never going to end.”

The man also detailed changes he said his group wants to see.

“Abolish police unions, end qualified immunity and we need to pardon our whistleblowers,” the man said. “They’re exposing corruption in our government and they’re being prosecuted. These people should be given medals, not prosecuted and forced to live out their lives in other countries.”

A small number of protesters holding signs showing their support for President Donald Trump were also in attendance.

About a dozen demonstrators gathered for the start of a protest Sunday morning, with some there to rally against government in general, and others to support outgoing President Donald Trump. “I’m here to support Trump. He got railroaded,” Pete Liacopoulos said at the protest at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City Sunday, Jan. 17, 2src2src.

About a dozen demonstrators gathered for the start of a protest Sunday morning, with some there to rally against government in general, and others to support outgoing President Donald Trump. “I’m here to support Trump. He got railroaded,” Pete Liacopoulos said at the protest at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City Sunday, Jan. 17, 2020.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Pete Liacopoulos had a sign calling for the impeachment of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and said the election that was certified for Biden was “not right.”

“(I’m) just trying to support Trump because he got railroaded,” Liacopolous said. “Something was not right (with the election) and Pelosi was the instigator. Pelosi’s on cloud nine now.

“They want so bad to impeach him, but he doesn’t deserve that. But what happened to the Capitol in Washington, you shouldn’t do that.”

Earlier this week, the Utah Highway Patrol said one permit had been issued for an event scheduled to take place from noon-3 p.m. on Sunday. Troopers said they were estimating a crowd of 500-1,500 could participate. On Thursday, the FBI weighed in on what it was expecting.

“At this moment in time, we’re not aware of any specific and substantiated threats here in Utah, but we are working very closely, like we always do, with our federal, state and local partners sharing information,” said Dave Fitzgibbons, FBI assistant special agent in charge in Salt Lake City.

But, he said, the FBI has a “heightened posture” heading into the weekend and through Jan. 20, Inauguration Day for President-elect Joe Biden.

An internal FBI report made public warns of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitols and in Washington, D.C., ahead of the presidential inauguration, elevating fears of more bloodshed after a deadly siege last week at the U.S. Capitol.

Later Thursday, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox declared a state of emergency on the state Capitol grounds in anticipation of weekend protests. He asked the Utah National Guard, Utah Highway Patrol and various area police departments to stand ready to ensure the safety of lives and property at the complex.

According to the Associated Press Sunday, more than a third of U.S. governors had called out the National Guard to help protect their state capitols and aid local law enforcement officers. Several governors issued states of emergency, and others closed their capitols to the public until after Biden’s inauguration day.

“We respect the right of Utah residents to peaceably assemble as guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution,” Cox said. “But we draw the line at threats to physical safety or to the Utah Capitol building. No violence of any kind will be tolerated.”

This story will be updated.

http://www.deseret.com/



  • Members of the Utah National Guard and law enforcement assemble before the planned protest at the State Capitol Sunday, Jan. 17, 2020.


    Spenser Heaps, Deseret News



  • Members of the Utah National Guard and law enforcement assemble before the planned protest at the State Capitol Sunday, Jan. 17, 2020.


    Spenser Heaps, Deseret News



  • Members of the Utah National Guard and law enforcement assemble before the planned protest at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2020.


    Scott G Winterton, Deseret News



  • Utah National Guard Specialist Alejandro Castaneda, left, and 2nd Lt. Cody Preszler stand guard before the planned protest at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2020.


    Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News



  • Members of the Utah National Guard and law enforcement assemble before the planned protest at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2020.


    Scott G Winterton, Deseret News



  • Members of the Utah National Guard and law enforcement assemble before the planned protest at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City Sunday, Jan. 17, 2020.


    Spenser Heaps, Deseret News



  • Members of the Utah National Guard and law enforcement assemble before the planned protest at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City Sunday, Jan. 17, 2020.


    Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

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