Report: Utah cities should prepare to counter political extremism, violence

In this file photo, pro-Trump protesters storm the U.S. Capitol complex in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021 | Photo by Brett Davis/Flickr via Public News Service, St. George News

ST. GEORGE —A new report outlines ways local government officials in Utah and elsewhere can push back on threats from the type of anti-democratic radical groups that stormed the U.S. Capitol.

It has been just over a year since violent extremists rioted in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden as winner of the 2020 presidential election.

The report, issued by the Western States Center, explores ways city, county and state leaders can strengthen themselves against paramilitary groups and white nationalists, who are gaining traction.

Lindsay Schubiner, momentum program director at the Center, said a great deal of animus is aimed at local officials.

“It’s really dangerous,” Schubiner stressed. “Threats and intimidation and political violence undermine the democratic process and can make it much more difficult for communities to participate in that process.”

Utah State Capitol, Salt Lake City, Utah, June 20, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Schubiner pointed out community leaders are often on the front lines of countering violent movements. The report argued elected officials and policymakers must make it clear they reject bigotry and authoritarian movements.

Utah has seen its share of extremism in recent years. State police and National Guard troops were deployed on Jan. 6 to protect the Utah Capitol after Donald Trump supporters and counter-protesters gathered. The guard also was called out after groups clashed during a 2020 Black Lives Matter rally in Salt Lake City.

Schubiner contended communities need to form broad coalitions.

“That’s one of the most important things that local leaders can do,” Schubiner asserted. “Build the political will to directly denounce bigotry and anti-democracy movements and work to defend inclusive democratic institutions.”

She believes other levels of government need to help in this effort.

“I’d also like to see much more support for the local level from state and federal institutions committed to defending inclusive democracy,” Schubiner urged.

The Utah Department of Public Safety has created and tasked a Threat Management Unit to share information and intelligence with local officials regarding threats toward the public and critical infrastructure.

Written by MARK RICHARDSON, producer for Utah News Connection.

Read the original article here.

Copyright Public News Service, all rights reserved.

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