In Utah, heavily armed militia members continue to present challenges to law enforcement at public demonstrations

FIJ Grantee, Eric Peterson’s series, reported over the course of months, explored the criminal justice system’s sometimes double standard when it comes to dealing with armed militiamen appearing at protests in the state. He explored allegations of double standards and found the Salt Lake District Attorney had dropped charges against a militia member who pepper-sprayed a Black Lives Matter protester in the face. After he asked to see the investigative file and ask why charges were dropped, the office reopened the matter, found numerous other witnesses and refiled charges. He pored through bodycam footage of violent protests and found instances of police quickly jumping to conclusions about a man alleged to have driven through a protest. He used open source investigative techniques to find social media video of a protester at the Utah state capitol being intimidated by Proud Boys while a state trooper barely seems to care and even appears to tell the Proud Boys that they are “awesome.”
The series has helped cast a light on the difficult task law enforcement has in dealing with demonstrators that come to protests equipped with assault rifles and body armor, and how the justice system itself appears to crack down on Black Lives Matter protesters with zeal and with militia members with diffidence.