Utah Governor Spencer Cox has declared a state of emergency ahead of expected protests at the state Capitol Building in Salt Lake with the transfer of power happening in the nation’s capitol. Here locally, law enforcement officials are hoping for a peaceful transition, but preparing for the worst.
Governor Cox has asked the National Guard, Utah Highway Patrol, and local police departments to stand by to intervene and protect the state capitol in case protests should turn violent. Cox’s order allows authorities to keep the Capitol grounds closed through Thursday, Jan. 21 - the day after President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration in Washington D.C .
Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez says he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the insurrection happing at the nation’s Capitol earlier this month...
“It was astonishing to see men and women wearing the uniform, getting beat down with American flags I never, ever thought I would see that I understand protests and civil unrest but to actually beat a cop with an American flag, just tore up my heart - just completely ripped it out. It was a sad day for this country, for law enforcement, and it was, a day I'll never forget.”
What he is hearing is that if there is any protests happening in Utah – they’ll be held at the state capitol. And while he can’t predict that nothing will happen local, because he knows anything can happen anytime and anywhere. He believes that his team is ready and will assist the teams at the Capitol, if needed.”
“We're always on guard - we're always prepared," Martinez said. "We have had conversations about our response. But what we're really doing is focusing on supporting Salt Lake City, and the Capitol and what their needs may be.”
While the focus is not on Summit County, he says his staff is ready the worst.
We're definitely on our A game,” Martinez said. “We've got our head on a swivel and we hope that there's no insurrection. We hope that people will abide by an orderly and peaceful transfer of power, and we can move this country forward.”
Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter says he has not heard of any planned protests in Park City, but they have increased staffing to deal with the Martin Luther King holiday crowds and also to make sure that the resources are in place and the City’s physical facilities are protected. There will be increased police presence at City Hall and on Main St. through the week.
“Obviously,” Carpenter said, “everybody is taxed right now throughout the state with resources. But we have mutual aid and lots of conversations going on right now. We'll continue to monitor that monitor this throughout the next couple of weeks and evaluate and change if needed.”
But at this point he says Park City is not providing any support for the staffing at the state capitol.
“Right now,” he said, “we are not. We have officers that are on standby however we're going to keep the majority of our resources here in the city and county. Because, you know, we're obviously it's a very busy time for us as well with Martin Luther King weekend, and the inauguration coming up. If needed, we do have resources that we can stand and assist as needed as we've done in the past with Salt Lake City.”
Carpenter added that many times, protests ebb and flow and move from location to location so he will continue to keep his finger on the pulse and make sure he’s aware of what’s happening as best he can.
Wasatch County Sheriff Jared Rigby didn’t return our request for comment.