By SOPHIA EPPOLITO Associated Press/Report for America
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.
Despite the lack of disturbances, the staff of new Gov. Spencer Cox was sent home Wednesday afternoon, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson tweeted.
Additional questions about that decision weren’t immediately answered by the governor’s spokeswoman, Jennifer Napier-Pearce, or by Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Nick Street, whose agency is in charge of security at the state capitol.
A crowd of about 200 people 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, D.C., ahead of Congress’ expected vote to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
The majority of Utah protestors were not wearing masks or abiding by social distancing guidelines.
Jason IsBell, one of the event organizers, said there were no plans to storm the Utah Capitol.
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.”
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.
Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.