Police in Utah County found thousands of people at a Halloween dance party this weekend near Utah Lake, in violation of state orders requiring social distancing and masking in counties where infection rates are high.
Deputies closed the party because the organizers — who investigators say are linked to a Provo-based events company called The Tribe Utah — didn’t have a permit for the event, Sgt. Spencer Cannon told FOX 13.
Posts by The Tribe Utah claimed 10,000 people attended the party Saturday night at the Knolls recreation area.
There were multiple car crashes linked to the party, Cannon said, and one woman was left unconscious after she was dropped onto her head while crowd-surfing.
“Crowd tossing would probably be a better way to describe it," Cannon told FOX 13. “And the tossing side hadn’t communicated well with the receiving side, and she ended up landing on her head and received a pretty serious laceration and was unconscious for at least a period of time.”
Cannon said deputies are investigating potential charges against the organizers — about a dozen people linked to The Tribe Utah.
But an event volunteer, Karson Jensen, told FOX 13 that The Tribe Utah was not the host of the event; it was organized by volunteers, he said.
He also distanced it from a “Protest On Halloween” previously advertised by Utah Tonight, a group that describes itself as having years of professional event-planning experience — though a business of that name does not appear to be registered with the state. Both Utah Tonight and The Tribe Utah shared videos of the Halloween party on their Instagram profiles.
“There was no Protest on Halloween, there was nothing else. There was simply a gathering between people who have the means to do so,” Jensen said.
Users behind the Utah Tonight Instagram account told FOX 13 News they “didn’t have anything to do with the gathering that took place.” They said it was organized by individuals and “no money was exchanged.”
Whether the event was formally hosted by The Tribe or by Utah Tonight, or it was an informal gathering, it appears to have violated state guidelines for groups. Hosts of large events are required to file a plan with health officials, showing how it will facilitate masking and distancing, and keep track of who was there in case of an outbreak.
Cannon told FOX 13 that no such plan was filed for the Halloween party at the Knolls.
Meanwhile, informal social gatherings are limited to 10 people under the state order. Video from Saturday night, shared by Utah Tonight, shows hundreds of people dancing in close proximity.
Both The Tribe and Utah Tonight have posted objections to the state’s coronavirus restrictions and public health advice. “The haters call us nonessential,” The Tribe’s bio proclaims.
Utah Tonight has called the restrictions “hypocritical," noting that Gov. Gary Herbert has attended group events during the pandemic. According to FOX 13 News, Utah Tonight posted a notice urging people not to get tested for COVID-19, arguing that “getting tested simply provides the mob with more ammunition to control our lives” — but the post appears to have been removed.
Dr. Eddie Stenehjem, an infectious disease specialist with Intermountain Healthcare, tweeted that if the party occurred as shown on video, “this will lead to more cases in the young, they will transmit to parents and grandparents.”
“More will die from COVID-19 because of this party,” he wrote.
Editor’s note: The Salt Lake Tribune and FOX 13 are content-sharing partners.