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Lehi considers new rule against targeted protests at officials homes

Posted at 6:52 PM, Dec 02, 2020

LEHI, Utah — City leaders in Lehi are exploring the idea of a new ordinance to increase charges for those protesting outside a specific person’s house.

If passed, a "targeted" protest within 100 feet of that person's home would be considered a Class B misdemeanor.

The consequences would carry the potential of 6 months in jail or a $1,000 dollar fine, however Chief of Police Darren Paul says its “very unlikely” that someone would actually spend that long behind bars for something like this.

Tuesday evening, he took to the podium to propose the ordinance in-front of the City saying about the punishment “I think that that is the appropriate level because that would help us resolve these cases in the” justice court.”

Chief Paul also calling attention to other high-profile protests at people's homes saying “we’re proposing that we adopt an ordinance in the city that would prohibit that.”

But the city of Lehi has yet to see a protest of this kind, only issues that have come up in neighboring cities came up in the meeting.

Orem’s city council took up a similar ordinance last month that they passed in the wake of protests at governor Gary Herberts house.

Read: Anti-picketing ordinance approved after protest at Governor's private residence in Orem

But other protests at people's homes have happened too, such as Director of the Utah department of health Joseph Miner, State Epidemiologist Angela Dunn, and Governor Elect Spencer Cox.

“I think, personally, when you gather in front of someone’s personal residence, you’re crossing the line” Jason Walker the Lehi City Administrator said during the meeting.

He went on to say “Is it going to be perfect… probably not but I think it's a whole lot better than to have nothing.”

Others throughout the meeting listened in and weighed the issue carefully, but one who took some issues with the way this would be implemented was Councilwoman Katie Koivisto.

“I don’t want to inconvenience others because I’m protected.” She said when talking about if a protest was outside of her home going on to say “I would rather them protest in front of my house … than my neighbors down the street who are having to deal with protesters yelling at me in front of their house.”

Councilwoman Paige Albrecht immediately retorting “And I look at the real-life situation… And I’m not sure I would have seen a news report on protesters gathering five doors down from Angela Dunn’s house.” Pointing out that it wouldn’t be as big of a protest if they were kept so far away.

A lot of the comments of the council hinged on they themselves being protested and what they felt someone in their shoes should have to deal with.

“We don’t want to infringe on peoples first amendment rights… that’s the freedom of speech” said Sgt. Jeff Smith with Lehi Police when asked about the ordinance “The biggest thing is we want to protect people and help them feel safe in their own homes.”

Sgt. Smith in an interview with FOX13 also walked us through why those proposing this new legislation feel that it's good to have a set of laws on the table as a “baseline”

The final decision Tuesday night was to draft the ordinance into legal language as well as take a look at the issues that the Orem city council would have had to deal with in order to make a final decision over what is right for the city of Lehi.