SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Gary Herbert told FOX 13 he will keep the Utah National Guard on standby even after a curfew expires on Monday morning.
"We’ll keep them on the ready," he said Sunday. "We’ll keep them on the ready to see if they’re needed."
The governor said he has offered support to Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendhall, who imposed the curfew to halt violent protests that erupted in downtown on Saturday.
Gov. Herbert spoke to FOX 13 as he made a surprise appearance outside the Capitol on Sunday afternoon, personally thanking custodial and restoration crews who worked overnight and throughout much of the day to remove graffiti from the grounds. Many asked to pose for pictures with him as he told them he appreciated their efforts.
"It takes a lot longer to clean things up than it is to destroy them. But to see the cleanup that’s been done here, the Capitol, what it looks like today," he said. " To see people stepping up and saying 'It’s my home, I’m not going to see it defaced.'"
Graffiti was spray painted on the historic building during Saturday's demonstrations. The Capitol Preservation Board, which oversees the grounds, said the damage was largely confined to that.
For hours, protesters shouted and chanted at a wall of police officers set up on the Capitol steps to block people from entering. A handful were arrested at the Capitol on Saturday night.
The governor said he was disappointed that the protests in downtown Salt Lake City turned violent.
"What we saw last night was really disheartening. What started out as a peaceful protest became criminal behavior. People used this opportunity to loot and riot and steal. That’s not Utah," he said. "Certainly there are issues that need to be discussed. And we need to make sure we understand the underlying issues there and see what we can do to make it better."
But asked about the potential for more demonstrations, Gov. Herbert told FOX 13 those involved in the violence would be prosecuted.
"Make no mistake about it, we’ll make sure people’s lives and property are protected and we will hold accountable those who are doing the violence and destruction," he said. "We have cameras, a lot of people will be identified over the next few days or week or two, of who were the perpetrators and they will be held accountable."