Facebook temporarily removes Utah Business Revival group, organizer says

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Business Revival organizer and former Salt Lake City police officer Eric Moutsos, left, introduces Greg Hughes, running for Governor of Utah, during a rally in support of police at City Hall in Salt Lake City on Saturday, June 20, 2020. Moutsos said Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, that Facebook had removed Utah Business Revival's group from the social media platform.

Facebook temporarily deleted Utah Business Revival’s group on the social media platform Saturday, according to Eric Moutsos, the group’s organizer.

Utah Business Revival, which Moutsos said reached 25,000 members, has sponsored protests in recent months against COVID-19 restrictions. In June, they held a concert attended by hundreds of people with country singer Collin Raye in Cedar City after the group was rejected twice by Utah cities worried about the spread of the coronavirus. They have also held events in support of law enforcement.

Utah Business Revival’s group page on Facebook disappeared Saturday morning, but it was restored later that evening, according to Moutsos.

Moutsos said that Facebook did not provide him a reason why Utah Business Revival’s group was shut down. A request to Facebook for comment was not immediately returned Saturday afternoon.

“It’s just extremely sad,” Moutsos said, because his group focused on holding events to “save small businesses” and have not advocated for violence or anything that would lead to their group being deleted.

He added, “Is this really where we’re at in America, where they’re just going to start banning groups that have a different opinion than them?”

In his personal Facebook post Saturday addressing the group being deleted, Moutsos referred to recent protests outside health officials' homes, stating that he has “always called for civility, including not going to the personal homes of those we disagree with.”

A dozen people gathered Thursday outside the home of Dr. Angela Dunn, the state’s epidemiologist. Her address was posted on Facebook in a comment to a post by an anti-mask activist, and the post was later deleted.

Another 30 people showed up to protest at the house of Dr. Joseph Miner, UDOH’s executive director, the UDOH spokesman said. Miner has been out of action for much of the pandemic, due to his own health problems; Jefferson Burton was appointed interim executive director in March, and Rich Saunders has been serving in that interim position since August.

Moutsos told The Salt Lake Tribune on Saturday that he spoke out against those protests when he heard about them.

“I’m not about intimidating people. I think protesting and rallying, that’s what makes America great. I think going to somebody’s house is crossing the line,” he said.

In August, a separate local group, Utah Citizens' Alarm, which opposed Black Lives Matter protests, also had its Facebook page removed. At the time, Facebook said that they took down pages and groups associated with “offline anarchist groups that support violent acts amidst protests, U.S.-based militia organizations and QAnon.”

Tribune reporter Sara Tabin contributed to this article.