Conservative activists assembled at Veterans Park for what was supposed to be an armed “Citizen’s Freedom March” to protest issues they claim infringe on First and Second Amendment rights on Saturday, Oct. 1.
The event, which began at 9:30 a.m., was originally advertised as an armed march through the area but was changed to a rally. Flyers encouraged participants to bring rifles, flags and signs but advised those in attendance not to threaten violence or be distasteful.
Rifles brought to the event were to be unloaded and equipped with flagged chambers, which are plastic pins attached to the gun’s inner chamber to show a lack of bullets. The organizers heavily enforced this rule throughout the event by refusing participation to those who dismissed the directions.
Organizers set up speakers next to the Korean War Monument and began with a panel of speakers.
Each speaker voiced their disapproval of the handling of specific issues within the state of Utah. The group’s goal of protesting, according to the event flyer, was to “decriminalize speech and assembly, stop unconstitutional gun grabs, free Washington D.C. prisoners, remove federal school control, restore power to the people and implement an in-person-only voting system.”
Many of the speakers also brought up other topics that had affected them in the past. Rep. Phil Lyman of the Utah House of Representatives’ District 73, mentioned how he began his path in politics after the 2009 raids in southeast Utah, where agents from the Bureau of Land Management raided multiple properties in search of stolen Native American artifacts.
“What prompted me to run for county commissioner was a morning very similar to this one back in 2009, when I watched 300 federal agents come in and raid my community, and I didn’t see much of a response,” Lyman said.
Lyman also took a rousing approach in explaining the opposition he faced as county commissioner.
“As a county commissioner, I faced off with a lot of these left-wing, Marxist, globalist and environmentalist groups and found out we were dealing with a real enemy there,” Lyman said. “Not an enemy that is intent on hurting you personally but is intent on destroying your history, your way of life, your culture and your existence.”
Many speakers and attendees were focused on the upcoming elections, with numerous in attendance advocating for others to vote during the next election in November. During her segment, Elaine Moore, an organizer for the Utah Voter Verification Project, voiced her displeasure with the current state legislature concerning available voter ballot information.
“Nothing is more important than elections,” Moore said. “The people need to have the right to examine our voting system, examine our ballots and examine our voter registration database.”
One common thread was displeasure with recent changes in local, state and national politics. Some speakers voiced how they viewed the average American’s lack of knowledge of their constitutional rights.
During his speech, former Rep. Steve Christiansen spoke about his displeasure with the low passing rate for U.S. citizens when given the current U.S. citizenship test.
“Only 36% of American adult citizens, the ones who ought to know, could pass the U.S. citizenship test,” Christiansen said. “By the way, you only have to have a 60% score to pass. That’s a D.”
Christiansen also criticized the current national education system for being responsible for an increase in progressive legislation because “only 7% of high school seniors could pass the same test.”
“Just a few months [after graduating], they receive their first ballot, unfortunately in the mail, and they vote,” Christiansen said. “They vote based on what they know, and so is it any surprise that our country continues to slide towards socialism?”
Christiansen then urged attendees to go about creating change peacefully.
“The only way that we’re going to win this fight is to do the things that we talked about and to do it in a certain way,” Christiansen said. “We have to do it in a way that is not contentious, not based on a spirit of anger and malice.”
The final speakers of the day were the self-described “Two Red Pills,” Jen Orten and Sophie Anderson. Orten and Anderson commented on their experiences with the mask mandates and how they have dealt with their views on the issue.
Following the Red Pills’ segment, the organizers, including lead organizer David Williams, ended the event with some closing words and the rally-goers disbanded for the afternoon.
Article and Photos by: Luke McKenzie