Utah governor declares emergency ahead of expected protests

Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at the Cox-Henderson inauguration held at the Tuacahn Center for the Arts, Ivins, Utah, Jan. 4, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox declared a state of emergency Thursday ahead of expected protests at the state Capitol building.

Cox, a Republican, has asked the National Guard, Utah Highway Patrol and local police departments to stand by to intervene and protect the Capitol in case protests turn violent.

His order allows authorities to close Capitol grounds through Jan. 21, the day after President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration in Washington.

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

One group secured a permit to protest at the Capitol on Sunday, according to state troopers. Authorities expect 500 to 1,500 people to attend.

Cox’s order came a week after angry, armed protesters broke into the U.S. Capitol, forcing members of Congress to halt the ongoing vote to certify Biden’s election win. Several hundred Trump supporters gathered at the Utah Capitol the same day at a mostly calm event.

The most prominent incident at the Utah demonstration was when a photographer for The Salt Lake Tribune was pepper-sprayed by a demonstrator who he said taunted him for wearing a mask and shoved him as he was shooting video of the protest.

Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Written by SOPHIA EPPOLITO, Associated Press/Report for America.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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