SALT LAKE CITY — Protesters, some of them armed, gathered outside the Utah Capitol building in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, but protests were relatively peaceful and no violence was reported.
Despite the quiet afternoon, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and staff members were to told they could leave the Capitol and work from home as a precautionary measure.
People waving Trump flags and holding ``"Stop the Steal" signs rallied outside at the same time as violent clashes broke out between supporters of the president in Washington and police ahead of Congress' expected vote to affirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory.
Unlike in Washington, DC, protests in Salt Lake City were almost non-violent and none of the supporters entered the building. A photographer with the Salt Lake Tribune was doused with pepper spray by a protester, although the tense moments were few.
In a video statement released to Twitter Wednesday, Cox called on Utahn's to speak against violence happening around the Nation.
“I urge you to stand up and speak out against the violence against the terrorists, against the evil that we have seen in our nation’s capital today,” he said.
Cox also encouraged people to participate in peaceable assembly, but to do so in a respectful way.
“To any of you out there who are considering joining those protests I ask you to please do so but please do so in the right way. To do so loud to do so proud but to do so in a respectful manner and by no means resort to violence or property destruction.”
The crowd of about 200 people in Salt Lake City crowded around a television monitor on the steps of the Capitol in to watch the president give a speech promoting his baseless claims of election fraud at a rally in Washington. The majority of Utah protesters were not wearing masks or abiding by social distancing guidelines.
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."
In his video statement, Cox asked Utahn's to rise above the violence and set an example for the rest of the country.
“I’m calling on all of you to speak out to speak up and to let your family, your friends, your neighbors know this is unacceptable. We are better than this in Utah, we are better than this in America.”
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this story