After the riots at the U.S. Capitol last week and protests in other states across the nation including Utah, there are reports that more demonstrations may occur this weekend. The state highway patrol is actively preparing for potential demonstrations as the inauguration approaches.
During any protest or demonstration at the Utah State Capitol, Lt. Nick Street, the public information office with the state Department of Public Safety, said the first priority of law enforcement is protecting life and preventing serious injuries. He said establishing firm ground rules with demonstration leaders is an important part of this.
“And I think that goes a long way in providing a positive throughput that can help de-escalate any hostility that is shown as the protest moves on," Street said. "We also understand that providing a place for them to have a voice is the reason they're there. And we were going to also do our best to allow that.”
Street said there are plans for increased security at the State Capitol this weekend, but because of safety concerns did not provide specific details. He said officers have high-quality personal protective gear, in case events turn violent.
“And a lot of that equipment is designed to keep officers safe, so that they can go home to their families at the end of their shift," Street said.
The highway patrol is not looking for any extra support from citizens this weekend.
“And we are not asking for anyone to show up armed," emphasized Street. "We aren't asking for help with security at these events. In fact, bringing a firearm to these events, in our opinion, just serves as another variable that could potentially add to that pressure cooker type environment that we're trying to avoid as law enforcement.”
According to Street, the department has teams actively assessing potential threats and determining what responses may be needed. He said it can be difficult to know what social media threats should be taken seriously and that as social media sites have taken down pages for some extremist groups, some threats have become harder to monitor.