BLACK Lives Matter protesters were met in a stand-off with an armed pro-Trump group on the streets of Provo, Utah yesterday.
The two groups were deadlocked, with one side demanding racial equality and an end to police brutality, and the other defending the streets after an SUV driver was shot at a protest on Monday.
Black Lives Matter protesters took to the streets of Provo, Utah[/caption]
Counterprotesters, armed with rifles, stood at the three remaining corners of the intersections[/caption]
At the intersection of Center Street and 300 West, a group gathered before the Provo Police Department carrying signs that said “Black Lives Matter” and “Jail Killer Cops.”
The other group occupied the remaining three corners of the intersection – with some carrying American flags and pro-Trump signs and many armed with rifles and handguns.
Members of the group, called Utah County Citizen’s Alarm, said that they gathered to defend the city’s streets, in reaction to a protest on Monday where an SUV driver was shot.
Casey Robertson, who organised the counterprotest, said: “I saw the news about the shooting that happened out here on the street, and it was disturbing to me.
“I grew up in Provo. This is my town.”
Robertson amassed 2,500 people in a Facebook group, calling for those who wanted to join him in the counterprotest.
He posted a Facebook video shortly before the gathering began, saying:”These freaking antifa idiots harassed a car and ended up shooting a guy in downtown Provo … I’m not going to freaking stand for it.
RIGHT TO PROTEST
“We’re not going to put up with violence. We’ll come strapped and ready to rock.”
Pellie Burrows, from Lehi, showed up Wednesday because she is tired of the discrimination she feels because she’s Black.
Burrows, who has lived in Utah her whole life, said: “We get followed around in stores.
“If we get pulled over, we get treated differently.”
Wednesday’s “March for Racial Equality” in Provo was organized by the group Insurgence as well as the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Northern Utah Black Lives Matter and Salt Lake City Antifascist Coalition, according to a Facebook event post.
“I think it’s important even in the face of armed opposition — we still have a right to protest, we still have a right to make our opinions heard,” said Anthony Franks, a Brigham Young University student from Maryland, referring to the counterprotesting groups across the street.
“As much as you might say a counterprotest that’s armed is violence-free … there’s very clearly an implicit threat of violence when you show up with a gun.”
Rick Shoell, from Spanish Fork, said he grew up in Provo and joined the counterprotests to protect businesses.
He said: “It’s peaceful enough and if it stays that way, fantastic.”
The counterprotesters occasionally jeered at the group gathered in front of police headquarters, who yelled back anti-Trump chants.
But John Sullivan, the founder of Insurgence, encouraged those gathered in support of racial equity to ignore and turn their backs on the taunters.
Sullivan said: “They want you to do something. They want you to start the violence, don’t do it. That’s not what we’re here for.”
On Monday, a protest against police violence turned violent when police say a gunman fired through the window of an SUV as protesters blocked the road.
After the shot, the driver drove forward, pushing protesters aside and knocking one to the ground.
The driver, a Provo resident in his 60s, suffered a gunshot wound to the arm and shrapnel in his eye and stomach.
He drove himself to Utah Valley Hospital.
The suspected gunman, Jesse Taggart, 33, from Salt Lake City, was arrested Tuesday night for investigation of attempted aggravated murder and aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury.
He is also accused of rioting, threatening the use of a weapon in a fight, criminal mischief and firing a weapon near a highway.
Defending the streets after Monday’s incident, one of the counterprotesters who gave their name as Weston, said: “The innocent person getting shot the other day.
“We as a community want those guys to know we don’t put up with that. We’ll back the police.
“The road is for people to drive their vehicles on and we have a right to travel freely.”
“They can have a different opinion, I can respect that.”
Police officers estimated the crowd Wednesday grew to between 200 and 300 people, with about two-thirds of the group there in support of racial equity and Black Lives Matter.
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Officers blocked off the roads so protesters could march down Center Street to the steps of the Historic Utah County Courthouse. They were flanked by the counterprotesters.
A man on a terrace near the top of the Nu Skin Enterprises building pointed a rifle at the crowd, but the movement otherwise remained peaceful.
Members of the Utah County Citizen’s Alarm were armed[/caption]