FBI not aware of ‘substantiated’ threats to Utah Capitol this weekend

The Capitol in Salt Lake City is pictured on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020.
The Capitol in Salt Lake City is pictured on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Utah Rep. John Curtis target of menacing flyer over his vote to certify election for President-elect Joe Biden

SALT LAKE CITY — Despite an internal report warning of possible armed demonstrations at all 50 state capitols this weekend, a local FBI official said Thursday the agency isn’t aware of any credible threats in Utah.

“At this moment in time, we’re not aware of any specific and substantiated threats here in Utah, but we are working very closely, like we always do, with our federal, state and local partners sharing information,” said Dave Fitzgibbons, FBI assistant special agent in charge in Salt Lake City.

But, he said, the FBI has a “heightened posture” heading into the weekend and through Jan. 20, Inauguration Day for President-elect Joe Biden.

An internal FBI report made public warns of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitols and in Washington, D.C., ahead of the presidential inauguration, elevating fears of more bloodshed after a deadly siege last week at the U.S. Capitol.

Also, Delta Air Lines has placed passengers who heckled Utah Sen. Mitt Romney on a flight to Washington last week on its no-fly list. A video of the flight showed several passengers chanting “traitor” on the plane.

Utah Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, also was the target of a menacing flyer taped to his office door Thursday, reading, “Wanted For Treason . . . For resisting the true electoral victor Trump.” A skull and crossbones cover Curtis’ eyes in a photo on the flyer.

Curtis voted to certify the election for Biden as did Romney.

“This doesn’t make me fearful or angry, it makes me sad for the divisiveness in our country. I invite my colleagues and constituents alike to show civility and respect, especially when disagreeing. That is the only way we can heal as a nation,” Curtis said.

Fitzgibbons declined to comment on any investigation involving Utahns who might have participated in the attack on the Capitol. But he said the agency has sent leads to all 56 FBI field offices in the country.

Later Thursday, authorities arrested John Sullivan of Sandy for his role in the riot. A criminal complaint alleges “restricted building or grounds; civil disorders, violent entry or disorderly conduct.” He is being held in the Tooele County Jail

Sullivan is the founder of Insurgence USA, a social justice group that calls itself anti-fascist and protests police brutality. He told the Deseret News last week that he attended the pro-Trump rally that turned into a violent attack on the Capitol to see “the truth” about the protests for himself and the organization he represents.

So far, the Utah Highway Patrol, which oversees security at the Utah Capitol, has issued only one permit for a protest on the grounds between now and Jan. 20. The Sunday event is expected to draw 500 to 1,500 participants.

Fitzgibbons said he couldn’t comment on what kind of presence the FBI might have at the state Capitol in the coming days.

“We will be plugged in,” he said. “We’ll say that we have a command post set up.”

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said Thursday the state is working with the Department of Public Safety, the Utah National Guard and legislative leaders to make sure the state is prepared for “whatever might come our way.”

Cox said the state honors the right for people to peaceably gather.

“There will be zero tolerance for any violence whatsoever, any property destruction,” he said.

The state is bringing in all of its UHP reserves and will have the National Guard on standby, he said.

Asked what it would take to make them active, Cox said “it’s not going to take much at all. As soon as we see those gatherings start to occur, they will be here to make sure that our Capitol is not vulnerable in any way.”

With widespread protests anticipated across the country in the coming days, the Utah Legislature announced Wednesday that the beginning of the 2021 session will be closed to the public. The annual 45-day session is scheduled to open next Tuesday.

Like police departments in Utah and across the country, the University of Utah department is monitoring and increasing security.

“Some members of the campus community may choose to participate in planned protests. Other campus community members are encouraged to avoid the Capitol area, government buildings, and downtown Salt Lake City for safety. U. employees who work downtown should consult with their supervisors regarding in-person attendance from January 16-20,” according to an alert posted on the university website.

Dennis Romboy

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