A recently passed Orem ordinance to limit targeted picketing in residential neighborhoods did little to deter anti-mask Utahns from protesting outside Gov. Gary Herbert’s private Utah County home.
On Sunday afternoon, dozens of protesters waved flags and held cardboard signs on the street outside Herbert’s house in Orem before packing up and heading to Fairview to picket outside Governor-elect Spencer Cox’s home.
The protests are a response to COVID-19 restrictions the governor announced on Nov. 9, including a statewide mask mandate and stricter limits on informal social gatherings, as case counts continue to climb and as hospitals warn that they are becoming overwhelmed.
The protests took place just days after the Orem City Council voted in an emergency session to adopt an ordinance requiring protesters and picketers to stay 100 feet from the property line of a person or persons targeted by the protest.
The ordinance, which passed unanimously, makes “targeted residential picketing” a class B misdemeanor, noting that the “public health and welfare and the good order of the community require that citizens enjoy in their homes and neighborhoods a feeling of well-being, tranquility, and privacy, and enjoy the freedom from being a captive audience to unwanted speech in their homes.”
“The practice of targeted residential picketing causes emotional disturbance and distress to residents and has the potential to incite breaches of the peace and disrupt the well-being and tranquility of the home,” the ordinance reads.
The ordinance defines targeted residential picketing as picketing that is “specifically directed or focused toward a particular residence, or one or more occupants of a particular residence; and … takes place within one hundred feet of the property line of that residence.”
“Gathering in front of a home can be intimidating, disturbing and frightening,” City Attorney Steve Earl said during an Orem City Council emergency session on Friday. “People in the homes are held captive.”
Utah Highway Patrol deputies and Orem Police Department officers walked around the protesters as they stood on the street outside Herbert’s home on Sunday.
Video of the demonstration appears to show protesters staying in the street and keeping a distance from the property lines of each of the homes in the residential central Utah County neighborhood.
The Orem Police Department could not be reached on Monday afternoon to comment on the protest.
“The goal is not to enforce but to educate,” City Manager Jamie Davidson said on Friday about the ordinance.
The same day that residents opposed to the newest COVID-19 restrictions picketed in Orem, city officials announced that various facilities would temporarily close due to a coronavirus outbreak that forced 50 city employees into quarantine either due to contracting the virus or being exposed to it.
While Herbert did not publicly address Sunday’s protests, Cox greeted those who drove out to Sanpete County to protest public health orders with snacks.
“Never dreamed I would have protesters at my home in Fairview,” the lieutenant governor tweeted. “But we don’t get many visitors, so if you make the long drive, the least we can do is make you cookies and hot chocolate.
“I’m glad I got a chance to tell them I love them even if we disagree on masks,” he added.
The Utah Department of Health reported on Monday 1,971 new coronavirus cases statewide, including 363 new cases in Utah County.