The Salt Lake County Republican Party sent out an email to supporters late last night, announcing an impromptu rally set for this afternoon. The rally comes after a fierce backlash from Democrats over GOP Chairman Chad Bennion’s comments about SLCO District Attorney Sim Gill.
The controversy began on Sunday, when Gill found that Weat Valley City detectives were not justified in the shooting death of Danielle Willard. Speaking to the Salt Lake Tribune, Bennion said blamed the decision on Gill’s upbringing in India, and called him a “cop hater.” Bennion then doubled down on his remarks on Monday, telling the Trib that Gill’s Indian heritage “tainted his handling of us of force issues” because Gill grew up seeing police brutality in India.
Democrats have called the Republican chairman’s remarks racist, and have demanded an apology. Others have been quick to point out that of the thousands of police-brutality complaints the District Attorney’s office has received, only a small fraction of them have ended up with a decision against the police.
In the email Tuesday night, the Salt Lake County Republican Party seems to be trying to mitigate the backlash against them, calling the rally an “Officer Support Rally-A rally to support the right of police officers to defend themselves, and to the[sic] protect the public, without fear of retribution from the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office.”
Some Republican Party members, however, are calling the rally an abuse of office by Chairman Bennion. “I started off pretty disappointed with Bennion’s comments,” says Jesse Harris, who goes by the name @elforesto on Twitter and forwarded the email to local media. “Now it’s obvious he need to go.” He also added on Twitter, “Listen, a ‘cops should get away with murder’ rally may not be the best PR move.”
For his part, Sim Gill—who was recently named the law enforcement Office of the Year—has made few public comments on the controversy, simply reiterating that he places the law above all else, and citizens and officers alike are subject to it equally. “I don’t need to apologize for my ethnicity or culture or American citizenship or my professionalism,” he told the Tribune.