Standalone: Marching For Racial Equality rally in Provo 28

Protesters gather outside the Historic Utah County Courthouse during the Marching For Racial Equality rally which began outside the Provo Police Department on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

It doesn’t matter where you heard it, the rumors floating about unrest and violence following the elections are rampant on social media and even in some mainstream media editorial pages.

Local police and sheriff’s deputies are not as quick to respond to such rumors even though they are aware of their existence.

In a letter dated Oct. 30, to Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith and Provo Police Chief Rich Ferguson, Jennifer Safstrom, counsel for the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at the Georgetown University Law Center sent them advice and warnings.

“I wanted to share with you the attached correspondence to state and local officials to safeguard voting rights and protect against unlawful armed activity in Provo,” Safstrom said. Her letter indicated the institute had successfully litigated unlawful militias from the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Georgetown Institute had noticed since Provo and Utah County have had protests this summer that police agencies should be aware of potential dangers.

Policing agencies like the Utah County Sheriff are prepared to deal with such issues but really don’t feel that will be the biggest problem Tuesday.

“We’ve been called by the county to help with traffic control at voter locations,” said Sgt. Spencer Cannon, sheriff’s spokesman. “If a problem comes up we’ll deal with it.”

Cannon said they are aware there might be some concerns about intimidation by militia or overzealous residents being poll watchers Tuesday.

“We are more than aware there are possibilities that could happen,” Cannon said.

With that, though, Cannon believes the biggest issues will be car congestion and getting everyone where they need to be to vote or to get their ballot in a drop box.

Last summer during a protest down Center Street and University Avenue in Provo, a man was shot and injured while trying to force his vehicle through protesters. However, most of the protests and marches have been peaceful and mostly non-confrontational.

“We are not seeing any credible threats,” said Sgt. Nisha King, public information officer for the Provo Police Department.

King does not expect to have to deal with paramilitary activity and voter intimidation like some large metropolitan areas may have to.

“We do have extra patrols planned for polling locations,” King added.

Most policing agencies in Utah County will have more officers on the street just as a help and for safety for voters, but that’s about it.

Cannon said there are other ways to show what individuals want than by carry guns and intimidating.

King said if a resident does see anything suspicious they should call 911 and report it.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801) 344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire

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