Thirteen protesters who were at the Utah State Capitol Building demanding passage of Senate Bill 100 were arrested as they blocked access to a legislative committee hearing. The bill would enact a statewide nondiscrimination law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Utahns from discrimination in the workplace and in housing.
The group first lined up outside the governor’s office and were met by bill sponsor Sen. Steve Urquhart and Sen. Jim Dabakis, Utah’s only openly gay state legislator.
The group later moved to block access to a committee hearing that Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser was to attend. Legislative legal counsel told the protesters that blocking access to an legislative meeting could be charged as a felony. The protesters refused to move as others trying to access the committee hearing began yelling at them.
Utah Highway Patrol officers then brought out zip ties and arrested the protesters one-by-one.
Among those arrested was KRCL producer Troy Williams, who yelled “liberty and justice for all,” as he was removed from the area.
Also arrested were Michelle and Gail Turpin, Donna Weinholtz, Gail Murdock, Jake Hanson, Orlando Luna, Dustin Trent, Matt Conway, Kevin Garner, Steven Germann, Angela Isaacs and Matthew Landis.
Salt Lake City attorney Christopher Wharton has offered to represent any of the jailed protesters at no charge.
Though the Utah Legislature legal counsel told the protesters before the arrests that their actions could carry felony charges, the public information officer for the Utah Department of Public Safety has said that the protesters will be charged with disruption of a public meeting — a class B misdemeanor with a maximum possible penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine — and disorderly conduct — a class C misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $750 fine.
“I think the misdemeanor charges are much more appropriate than what they originally threatened as being felony charges,” said Wharton. “I’m glad to see that the charges are more grounded in reality.”
Typically, Wharton said, there is no need for bail on low-level nonviolent offenses, as long as the person arrested signs a promise to appear.
“They will be fingerprinted and booked today and then asked to sign a promise to appear in court. If they don’t show up, they risk having a warrant for their arrest issued,” Wharton explained.
The cases will be presented to the Salt Lake City Prosecutor’s office, though that office could push them to the county.