SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 News) – A Utah-based militia group, recently kicked off Facebook, tells ABC4 they show up to protests to deter violence, even as local organizers say the militia is there to intimidate.
“A well-organized militia is encouraged in the Constitution, and that’s what we are. Very well organized,” said Casey Robertson, who leads Utah Citizens’ Alarm.
“We don’t instigate, we don’t banter back and forth with protestors, we don’t show up making political statements. We are simply there as organized citizens to protect our communities. That’s it,” added Robertson.
Anti-police demonstrations across Salt Lake City in the last two months have drawn members of Utah Citizens’ Alarm, he says, because citizens like him grew concerned about violence on Utah’s streets.
On Tuesday night, two people were shot and killed in Kenosha, Wisc., during protests in the wake of Jacob Blake’s death. A confrontation between demonstrators and a group of armed citizens guarding a gas station Tuesday night led up to the deadly shooting, according to reports.
Lex Scott, with Black Lives Matter Utah, sees the militias as incendiary — a source of volatility that increases tension and potential violence.
“It makes people nervous, it makes people scared and it makes people angry,” said Scott.
“Their presence makes it inherently more dangerous,” she added.
Salt Lake City Police say they don’t take a position on the militia groups. Police are there to protect people’s rights — their rights to protest, and to bear arms. But, police tell ABC4 that they have never called on a militia to help them during protests. Even if the militias say they are there to keep the peace.
“We definitely back the blue 100 percent, we support them,” said Robertson, who says in all of the protests they have attended there have been no violent incidents with members of Utah Citizens’ Alarm.