SALT LAKE CITY — Utah State Capitol security is being reviewed following riots where pro-Trump supporters broke into the U.S. Capitol building.
Utah Department of Public Safety Commissioner Jess Anderson was planning to meet with House Republican leaders to review security plans as they prepare to re-open the Capitol to the public for the 2021 legislative session later this month. The complex has been closed since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the violence in Washington DC has made Utah's public safety leaders to take another look at their plans.
"It also causes us to pause, to re-evaluate, but I wouldn’t say in an alarming way because we are prepared," Commissioner Anderson said in an interview Thursday with FOX 13.
Stricter measures are already in place in response to COVID-19. But Commissioner Anderson said they have also increased things following a riot in Salt Lake City on May 30, where the state capitol building was vandalized. Commissioner Anderson said the Utah Highway Patrol, which is tasked with Capitol security, has also improved communication with protest organizers to facilitate demonstrations in a non-violent way.
The Utah State Capitol has proudly hosted protests of all political beliefs, from Black Lives Matter marches and teachers union demonstrations to the most recent "Stop the Steal" rallies by supporters of President Trump and anti-maskers venting at the governor's COVID-19 health orders.
"First Amendment friendly, Second Amendment friendly, it’s an open Capitol campus," Commissioner Anderson said.
But this year, because of COVID-19, there will be additional measures. More troopers will be assigned to the legislative session and bags will be searched. In committee rooms, House and Senate leadership has mandated face coverings and physical distancing measures. Those who don't comply will be asked to leave (or escorted out).
FOX 13 is told the Utah State Legislature is contemplating a rule change that will allow the Capitol Preservation Board, which oversees the grounds, to close the campus under an emergency order and bypassing the need for an executive order from the governor.
"We can put certain protocols in place to make sure everybody stays safe and make sure their voice is heard in the same manner," Commissioner Anderson said.
Governor Spencer Cox's office expressed confidence in the security measures.
"We rely on the UHP and trust their professionalism. They have been reviewing security protocols for a few weeks and are working with CPB to keep people safe at the Capitol," said Jennifer Napier-Pearce, the governor's communications director.