About 40 Utah Highway Patrol troopers are staying in the state instead of traveling to Washington, D.C., to provide security for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, as law enforcement prepares for anticipated protesters at the Capitol in Salt Lake City.
Because of security concerns, Department of Public Safety spokesman Sgt. Nick Street wouldn’t say exactly how troopers anticipated they would respond to demonstrations planned in support of President Donald Trump, but he said, “We are planning extra security for this coming weekend.”
Street said traditionally, Utah and other states send a number of troopers to presidential inaugurations.
“With the scenario that could present itself at our own Capitol over the next few days or next week,” Street said, administrators are concerned about letting “40 well-trained state troopers go to D.C. when we’re kind of facing our own threat here.”
The Associated Press reported increased law enforcement presence and other security measures at state capitols across the nation, after last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Asked about its knowledge of protests planned in Utah, the FBI said in a statement: “While our standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products, the FBI is supporting our state, local, and federal law enforcement partners with maintaining public safety in the communities we serve. Our efforts are focused on identifying, investigating, and disrupting individuals that are inciting violence and engaging in criminal activity.”
ABC News has reported, citing an FBI bulletin, that armed demonstrations were planned for all 50 state capitals this weekend and into next week. The bulletin also warned these groups were calling for “storming” government buildings if Trump is removed from office prematurely and once Biden is sworn in.
In its statement, the FBI said, “Our focus is not on peaceful protesters, but on those threatening their safety and the safety of other citizens with violence and destruction of property.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah said it is investigating an undisclosed number of Utahns who were allegedly involved in the riot last week at the U.S. Capitol, said spokesperson Andrew Choate.
Utah activist John Sullivan went inside the U.S. Capitol during the attack, but he told The Salt Lake Tribune that he was there only to document what occurred. He said he shot a video of Capitol police fatally shooting Ashli Babbitt.
“I wanted to see history go down,” Sullivan said.
He has previously organized multiple protests against police violence in Utah, including a Provo event where a person fired shots at a vehicle that sped through a crowd of protesters. He has faced criticism from activists who contend he didn’t take enough safety precautions and that he was too close with pro-police demonstrators.
Street added that the UHP is still investigating who pepper-sprayed a Tribune photographer during a pro-Trump rally outside Utah’s Capitol on the day rioters breached the U.S. Capitol. He said one other person — who was accused of taking a journalist’s phone and driving away with it — is being investigated in connection to that protest.
Reporter Sara Tabin contributed to this report.