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UHP prepares for more protests at Utah State Capitol

(Credit: Paul Nelson, file)

SALT LAKE CITY — The FBI is warning public safety officials about armed protests planned for every state capitol complex across the country.  And local public safety officials say they’re keeping an eye out for potential “bad actors,” but tech companies are making their job harder. 

According to ABC News, the FBI is reviewing 45,000 digital tips about possible protests across the country.  They’re reporting police agencies nationwide have been told to increase their security posture at statehouses.

The Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) is in charge of securing the Capitol in Salt Lake City.  Normally, they would send troopers to Washington D.C. to assist in the inauguration, but, since the ceremony will be smaller due to COVID-19, UHP has decided to keep their troopers in Utah.

“We’re better to have that extra amount of personnel ready to go, or at least on standby status here,” said Lt. Nick Street.

In a statement, the FBI National Press Office said the agency will not comment on the information they’ve gathered since the violent protest at the US Capitol.  However, they’re offering help to local and state police agencies that need it.

“While our standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products, the FBI is supporting our state, local, and federal law enforcement partners with maintaining public safety in the communities we serve. Our efforts are focused on identifying, investigating, and disrupting individuals that are inciting violence and engaging in criminal activity. As we do in the normal course of business, we are gathering information to identify any potential threats and are sharing that information with our partners. The FBI respects the rights of individuals to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights. Our focus is not on peaceful protesters, but on those threatening their safety and the safety of other citizens with violence and destruction of property.”

Removal of Parler App

Street says it’s common for law enforcement to sift through open social media posts to search for any signs of a possible threat from either side of the political aisle.  Frequently, they’ll find people who have been “bad actors” in one protest that plan to attend another.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t protest lawfully, but it always causes us to raise an eyebrow when we see certain individuals who have behaved poorly in the past showing up to protests,” Street said.

However, one of the more popular social media platforms for conservatives is Parler, and tech companies have shut it down.  Street said their analysts now have to find where those Parler users are going.

“Right now, that mass communication availability has been hindered.”

Street also said it’s normal for people to bring firearms to protests, and many of those people say they’re bringing them to help law enforcement prevent vandalism or assist in keeping people safe.  However, he says they’re not asking the public for that kind of help.

“We aren’t supportive of that.  In fact, that type of action brings an extra variable to something that can sometimes turn hostile,” Street said.

 

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