In early December, the right-wing Utah Patriots militia courted some controversy with a “Kyle Rittenhouse Appreciation” rally in downtown Salt Lake City, teaming up with the Proud Boys.
Last week the organization held its Christmas Party in Riverton, complete with a rifle-toting Santa Claus who also sported a “Let’s go Brandon” hat, plenty of guns and a canned food drive. A handful of prominent Republican politicians were also on hand.
Former Utah Speaker of the House Greg Hughes joined Alena Ericksen, a candidate for the GOP nomination in Utah’s 1st Congressional District, and Jason Preston, a Republican candidate in the 3rd District. Also in attendance was Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding.
As The Salt Lake Tribune reported in November, Ericksen is suing Gov. Spencer Cox, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, several other government officials claiming coronavirus-related restrictions violated her constitutional rights. The two suits seek nearly $1.5 billion in damages.
Hughes, the top-billed speaker at the event, says he attended due to his good relationship with the organization.
“I went to D.C. with them when I spoke at one of the many Trump rallies on Dec. 12th, 2020. They were great. There were people there to commit violence, and this group kept me and others from Utah safe,” Hughes said.
Protesting President Joe Biden’s election victory last December, Hughes spoke at several events in Washington.
During those events, Trump supporters, including the Proud Boys, clashed with Antifa counterprotesters. At least four people were stabbed, and 23 were arrested amid the chaos.
”It was a more dangerous atmosphere than I thought it would be. I was glad they were there,” Hughes said.
A spokesperson for Preston says he attended because he was asked to attend.
“As a candidate, Jason is speaking anywhere and everywhere engaged citizens are gathered. He was invited to speak, as he as to other groups transparently about why he’s running for Congress,” Britt Larsen said in an email.
Ericksen could not be reached for comment.