SALT LAKE CITY -- Attorney General Mark Shurtleff waded into a group of protesters Tuesday. They accused him of making a secret deal with Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints followers of polygamist Warren Jeffs. The protesters are mainly ex-members of that church. Shurtleff convinced some, but not all, that he's representing their interests, too.
This is another illustration of how the Warren Jeffs regime led to shattered lives, broken families and divided communities. The protesters feared the attorney general's dealings with Jeffs' lieutenants would force them from their homes.
Former FLDS member Patrick Pipkin said, "We all helped build this community, Hildale and Colorado City."
Those who showed up are mostly people kicked out of the FLDS by Warren Jeffs or who lost faith and bailed out.
Former FLDS member April Dutson said, "We actually moved in the night, without anyone knowing, because of the distress."
"FLDS came and took my home away from me and threw me out," said former FLDS member Cora Witt.
Many built their homes and feel entitled to them. "They built that community as much as the FLDS did," said former FLDS member Margaret Cooke. "They put their heart and soul into it. I put my heart and soul into it."
Jeffs is now behind bars and FLDS property is under court control. With court approval, some former followers moved back into homes they originally built.
In recent months, Jeffs' loyal followers have turned militant to pressure the court. The unified FLDS front has shaken up the scattered former followers.
Dutson said, "Right now we are afraid that we will be asked to leave our home once again, or that they will take control of our lives."
Rally organizers targeted Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. They accuse him of making a secret deal to return control of the properties to Jeffs loyalists. One protester said, "I was born and raised there, and I'm 61 years old, and I don't feel like that we should have to be kicked out." Shurtleff told the protester, "No one's kicking you out."
Shurtleff tried to reassure the former members. He said, "We know what their concerns are, and that is a chance to be secure in their homes."
Shurtleff acknowledged he's negotiating with FLDS leaders to avoid years of lawsuits, but he says non-FLDS are not being overlooked. "Yeah, we've been looking out for them, absolutely," he said. "That's why it's taken so long in these negotiations."
That was good enough for some. "We won't be kicked out of our homes, and he is looking out for us," said Pipkin.
But some people disagreed. Former FLDS member Maryann Harker said, "I don't believe anything that comes out of his mouth."
Witt said, "Everybody just keeps saying things, and they don't keep their promises."
Shurtleff says the key to resolving the battle is to create a court-appointed board. It would examine the conflicting claims to each home. But he says the various parties haven't agreed to that and negotiations continue.