KANAB — In response to continuing protests held at a busy intersection with a history of pedestrian-versus-vehicle collisions, as well as a recent altercation between opposing protesters, the intersection of state Routes 89 and 89A in Kanab has been banned as a location for future gatherings, according to a joint statement made by city and county officials Friday.
According to a joint press release from the Kanab City Police Department, Kane County Sheriff’s Office and Kane County Attorney’s Office, the intersection of the state roads, which are also labeled as 300 South and 100 East in Kanab, have been the site of repeated protests over the course of the last few months.
“The protests occurring at this intersection are not only unlawful but they are becoming increasingly dangerous,” city and county officials state.
“This intersection has a history of pedestrian-vehicle accidents, which have resulted in serious injuries including one death last year. Although the state has made recent changes to improve the safety of the intersection, congregations of people at the intersection still result in distraction and obstructed views for drivers and pedestrians and are very dangerous. We must take action now to mitigate these dangerous conditions. We also refuse to take no action when protests escalate to more serious criminal activity.”
The press release states that while freedom of speech and assembly are constitutional rights that law enforcement officers are sworn to protect, state and local government as nonetheless allowed “to pass and enforce laws of general applicability that may result in placing some limitations on peaceful protests.”
Those laws cannot relate to the substance or content of speech, but can restrict the when, where and way a protest can be held, officials state in the release. They add those restrictions must have a rational basis behind them related to public securing the public safety and welfare of the community.
The release goes on to list Utah laws that restrict impeding traffic on a state road or standing on any sidewalk (in a way that also impedes traffic). State code related to disorderly conducted was also cited, as anyone who refuses leave the SR-89-89A intersection after being asked to by law enforcement may end up cited or arrested.
The statement continues:
Beginning immediately, Kanab City Police Officers and Kane County Sheriff’s Deputies will strictly enforce all state and local laws regarding stopping or standing on the sidewalks adjacent to State Route 89 and 89A or impeding the flow of traffic. Any individual who is found to be congregating on these sidewalks or impeding traffic will be asked to leave. Any individual who refuses to obey a lawful order to leave will be cited or arrested.
While protests in Kanab have largely been peaceful at the busy intersection, officials referred to an incident the week prior involving opposing protestors that has resulted in an “investigation for potential criminal charges.”
Details surrounding the incident that led to a criminal investigation were not included in the press release and a call to the Kanab City Police Department Friday for clarification was not returned.
However, an incident that took place in the area of the interaction recently was recorded in a two-minute video and posted to the internet where it has since gone viral. In the video, a man believed to be a Trump supporter had a profanity-laced exchange with a group of Black Lives Matter protesters. During the exchange, the man proceeded to cough on the protesters and was hit by some of the BLM protesters as a result.
As the exchange continued, one of the protesters also hit the Trump supporter with a protest sign. Dueling accusations of assault immediately followed until the Trump supporter eventually returned to his truck parked nearby.
Though protesting at the intersection has been banned for reasons of public safety, according to the press release, city and county officials said peaceful protests could continue at safer spots and recommended locations like the Kane County Courthouse, the lawn in front of the Kanab Center, Jacob Hamblin Park or the Ranchos Park.
“Organizers of peaceful protests should ensure that they are otherwise in compliance with all state and local laws,” the press release concluded.
The joint press release drew the attention of the Utah chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. ACLU Utah stated over social media that it was reviewing “the change in First Amendment activities in Kane County.”
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