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What Utah’s governor says about a stomped on ‘Back the Blue’ sign, and Black Lives Matter Utah calling the American flag ‘racist’

Black Lives Matter Utah’s comments calling American flag ‘a symbol of hate’ were ‘despicable’ and did more harm than good, Gov. Spencer Cox says

Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at the PBS Utah Governor’s Monthly News Conference at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City.
Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at the PBS Utah Governor’s Monthly News Conference at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, July 15, 2021.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

It doesn’t matter if it’s destroying a Back the Blue sign or a Black Lives Matter sign. Gov. Spencer Cox says people should stop doing “stupid” things in the name of hate.

“I dislike hate wherever it is or wherever it’s pointed out,” Cox said during his monthly PBS Utah news conference on Thursday.

The governor made the comment after a reporter asked him about a case in Garfield County in which a 19-year-old woman was charged last week with criminal mischief along with a hate crime enhancement — making it a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail — after she was accused of stomping on a pro-police sign and throwing it in the trash in front of an officer who had just given her friend a speeding ticket.

The hate crime charge was made possible after the Utah Legislature strengthened its hate crimes legislation in 2019, expanding protected classes to include not just race and religion, but also “political expression” and “status as a law enforcement officer.”

Cox said Thursday he wasn’t aware of the specifics around the Garfield County case, but “there was a lot of negotiation that went into that bill” to get it approved.

Cox also expressed support for Utah’s police officers while denouncing the act of stomping on a Back the Blue sign.

“Utah has always been near the top of the nation when it comes to support for our women and men in blue,” he said, calling his own security detail “the best people I know.”

“Now, again, they’re not all perfect, and we certainly have some examples of bad behavior, but they’re few and far between here in our state,” the governor said.

To the question of whether destroying a Back the Blue sign is equatable to destroying a Black Lives Matter sign, Cox said, “Obviously I think both are bad.”

“Having to choose” between being “pro-cop” or “pro-multicultural communities” is a “mistake,” he said.

“So, yeah, I don’t think you should be destroying Blue Lives Matter signs. That’s dumb and that’s hate-filled and don’t do it,” Cox said. “I think, you know, that racist behavior may be a little worse, but I don’t know why we have to put it on a scale and always weigh those things.”

Ultimately, Cox said people just shouldn’t be doing things like destroying Back the Blue signs.

“Just stop it. Just stop doing stupid stuff.”

Gov. Spencer Cox also reiterated his disapproval after Black Lives Matter Utah’s founder Lex Scott recently called the American flag a “symbol of hatred” and anyone who flies it “a racist.”

The governor called those comments “despicable” and “wrong” — and said they did more harm than good.

“She should have apologized and she didn’t, and that’s her right,” Cox said. “But I think she hurt her cause far more than she advanced her cause.”

Cox again said he refused to allow those comments to change his perception of the flag, which he called “the greatest flag in the history of the world” that represents the “ideal that all men and women are created equal.”

“I think our flag stands against racism,” he said. “I refuse to let white supremacists take away what that flag stands for and I refuse to let Lex Scott take away what that flag stands for.”