LOCAL NEWS

Security Increases At State Capitol Ahead Of Inauguration

Jan 17, 2021, 7:18 PM | Updated: Jan 13, 2023, 8:10 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Security nationwide has been strengthened in the wake of the riots at the US Capitol and state capitals ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s Inauguration, including in Utah.

FBI officials said there were threats of armed protests and possible violence at many of the state’s capitols Sunday.

The events at the Utah State Capitol building were marked with a show of force by Utah Highway Patrol, Utah National Guard and multiple law enforcement agencies, but the protests, which never turned violent, only had a couple dozen people.

State leaders wanted to send a clear message — they’re prepared and won’t be caught off guard. The violence in Washington D.C and the vandalism across the Beehive State last summer, they said, will not be tolerated.

“This is monumental,” said Jess L. Anderson, commissioner with the Utah Department of Public Safety. “We’ve never done anything like this in the past, ever.”

Troopers, state park rangers and guardsmen taped off a perimeter around the capitol grounds, all in preparation for Sunday’s scheduled protest.

“We for sure did not want to have a situation as to what occurred in Washington D.C,” said Anderson.

The DPS commissioner said they monitored social media platforms and relied on information from various intelligence agencies, including the FBI.

“We know for sure that there was a clarion call that went out amongst the people of these groups that they would be able to cause disruption from the 16th to 20th, calling for today being the real big focus in concentration at state capitols nationwide, based upon President Trump’s real last presidential power day in office,” he said.

Officials said capitol grounds will remain under high alert and buildings will stay closed through Inauguration Day. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox issued a state of emergency in advance of the weekend as a precaution and to ready security forces in the event something did happen. 

“Until all temperature of the environment can calm down and cool off, and until we really have better information going forward as to ensure safety of all people,” said Anderson. 

Access to the buildings will be limited to lawmakers for the start of the legislative session on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the additional resources — including the park rangers and national guardsmen — were expected to remain on standby, but not necessarily physically present.

The large showing of law enforcement outnumbered protesters at the capitol. Even still, a few dozen protesters showed up to voice their concerns about current events.

Things stayed peaceful, and every person KSL TV spoke with said they never had any intentions of storming the capitol or being violent.

In fact, one person who said he was a President Trump supporter, said he did not agree with what happened at the nation’s capitol on Jan. 6, but still felt it was important to be at Utah’s capitol.

“I’m here to support Trump,” said Pete Liacopoulus. “Trump got railroaded, and it shouldn’t have happened what happened.”

Liacopoulos said he wasn’t there to cause violence or make threats. He just wanted his voice heard.

“You have to support him,” said Pete. “If you support him, fine. If you don’t, that’s fine, too, but you can’t have it both ways.”

Many Trump supporters said they felt the election wasn’t fair and figured they had to say something, instead of staying silent.

“All this was stolen from us and the government needs to be held responsible for what they did to us,” said Stephen Peacock. 

“I’m gonna fight, and I’m not going to stop fighting as long as crap keeps going on the way that it is,” said Devin Hall. “I’m gonna fight.”

Officials all across the country have verified the accuracy of the election, though President Trump continues to tell his followers it was stolen from him. His team lost dozens of lawsuits claiming there were election problems. 

The largest group at the Utah State Capitol, Bois of Liberty, said they did not support either President Trump or President-elect Biden. They said they don’t support any type of what they feel is large, over-reaching government.

“We have government infringing on people’s rights all the time,” said one member of the group who did not identify himself. “There’s conversations we need to have. These endless wars overseas, we need to end the war on drugs, we need to end qualified immunity.”

He also said the show of force by law enforcement at the capitol was proof of over-reaching government.

“They have an agenda they’ve got to push,” he continued. “Any resistance to the tyrannical acts that governments have been making across this nation, they’re gonna come down on it. I mean, look at this — this shows the weakness of the state.”

Officials said they would continue to monitor social media chatter and be ready in the event something does happen closer to the inauguration.

“It’s only going to get worse and I totally believe that,” said Hall. 

The protesters stayed for about two hours, then left.

A lot of people were worried about violence or vandalism, but that never happened.

KSL 5 TV Live

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Security Increases At State Capitol Ahead Of Inauguration