Trump supporters gather at Utah capitol in mostly calm event
Sophia Eppolito, Associated Press/Report for America
Published at | Updated at
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Several hundred people waving Trump flags and holding “Stop the Steal” signs rallied outside the Utah Capitol Wednesday, though the relatively calm protest didn’t match the fury seen in Washington where protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol in a chaotic protest.
New Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, both Republicans, issued strong rebukes of what occurred in Washington, with Romney calling out President Donald Trump’s role in the events.
The most prominent incident at the Utah demonstration was when photographer Rick Egan of The Salt Lake Tribune was pepper-sprayed by a demonstrator who Egan said taunted him for wearing a mask and shoved him as he was shooting video of the protest. A group of men cornered the photographer and began laughing at him after he was sprayed, Egan said.
The incident is under investigation, Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Nick Street said. One other person was cited in a separate incident, he said.
Demonstrators in Salt Lake City crowded around a television monitor on the steps of the Capitol to watch the president give a speech promoting his baseless claims of election fraud at a rally in Washington that came before violent clashes broke out between his supporters and police in Washington ahead of Congress’ expected vote to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. The majority were not wearing masks or abiding by social distancing guidelines.
Some men wearing Proud Boys shirts and hats and carrying guns were interspersed throughout the crowd.
Colton Fiedler, 23, of South Jordan, said he was the first person to arrive at the statehouse at just before 9 a.m. in the hopes that the nation’s representatives in Congress would “finally find the courage to do the right thing.”
“I am a registered Republican, but I don’t know how much longer I will be,” said Fiedler, who was holding a Trump 2020 sign. “The Republican Party is dead as of this year. It is the party of Trump now.”
At one point, demonstrators gathered for photo and chanted “Recall Romney,” a frequent critic of Trump.
Romney called the events in Washington “an insurrection incited” by Trump in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
“We gather today due to a selfish man’s injured pride and the outrage of his supporters whom he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning,” Romney said. “Those who choose to continue to support his dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate, democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy. They will be remembered for their role in this shameful episode in American history. That will be their legacy.”
Election officials from both political parties, governors in key battleground states and Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, have said there was no widespread fraud in the election. Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two challenges rejected by the Supreme Court.
Despite the lack of major disturbances at the Utah protest, Gov. Spencer Cox’s staff was sent home Wednesday afternoon, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson tweeted. Additional questions weren’t immediately answered by the governor’s spokeswoman, Jennifer Napier-Pearce, or by Street, whose agency is in charge of security at the state capitol.
In a video message posted online, Cox said he was deeply troubled by the “cowardly acts of violence” that occurred at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. While protesting peacefully is a critical part of democracy, what occurred in Washington wasn’t that, said Cox, who was inaugurated Monday after serving as the state’s lieutenant governor since 2013.
“As patriots, as Utahns, as Americans, as people who care deeply about each other and care deeply about this great nation, I urge you to stand up and speak out against the violence, against the terrorists, against the evil that we have seen in our nation’s capital today,” Cox said. “We are better than this in America,”