Martin Luther King Day in Boise began with a parade, and a short celebration of diversity, in a state still struggling to escape a reputation for racism.
Free red MLK T-shirts from Coke had been given out at the start of the March by someone. Occupiers then took the opportunity to conduct public education about corporate practices.
By afternoon, word had seeped out of the Idaho legislature of imminent new legislation to outlaw camping on state property near the Capitol. This proposed new law is aimed to bring down the long enduring Occupation across the street from the Statehouse.
Representative Scott Bedke, a cattle rancher from southeast Idaho, is the Bill’s sponsor. He has a record of quashing free speech to protect corporate interests. For example, Bedke got a State Fish and Game Department manager demoted for writing a letter to the newspaper about the wildlife impacts of an industrial wind development in a sensitive area of public lands.
The legislation to quash Occupy Boise and evict the vigil from state lands is HO380.
The Bill describes the Capitol Mall areas as a “vibrant core” of Idaho state government.
What is a more vibrant symbol of democracy than a peaceful vigil and protest with the diversity of tents, colors, symbols, citizens, educational activities and community building at the Occupy Boise site?
The Bill refers to the “health and safety of all citizens including touring school children …”.
It seems Bedke doesn’t want school children to see poor people in tents – lest they comprehend what their future might be when they get left behind in the grim under-funded, increasingly privatized-to-fat-cat-contractors school system in Idaho.
No sirree. None of this in a state where 16% of the residents are now on food stamps. The Legislature this very session is bickering over paying for a few more state employees so that food stamp distribution dates can be staggered. Complaining grocers don’t like getting swamped by hungry poor people on the first of the month.
People in Idaho are so desperate for food that they shop at 3 am!
Gilliam said the Nampa, Idaho, area has been particularly hard-hit; there, people have been flocking to a local 24-hour Winco grocery store at 3 a.m. on the first of the month to fill their carts and be ready to pay when their food stamp benefits kick in at 4 a.m.
The Bill refers to “aesthetics”. The state’s Master Plan for the Occupation site is to chop down the beautiful old oak and linden trees and bulldoze the lawn so that car parking lots can mar the scenic and aesthetic space around the historic old courthouse site and the Veterans Memorial.
The current contrast between the tents and the historic buildings, combined with the diversity of Occupiers and their activities in conducting an ongoing vigil spotlighting the erosion of rights, freedoms and justice that citizens are now facing, is a work of art in itself.
The legislation even outlaws cooking! One can only imagine how unaesthetic the sight and smell of someone cooking is to some Legislator’s delicate sensibilities. Next they will be shutting down bakeries and restaurants for wafting the “racy” smells of cinnamon or chili into the street.
The last part of the Bill proclaims that: An emergency situation existing therefor …
This means that the State could act as soon as the Governor (Butch Otter) would sign a Bill once it passes. This could perhaps be as soon as next week. A formal hearing could be as early as this Friday morning, and then the Bill could speed through the Senate. Normally, laws go into effect in July after the session is over. Just like at Occupy sites across the country, the authorities initially thought the winter would freeze Occupiers out. That hasn’t happened, and they have endured and thrived under adversity.
The “emergency” clause means immediate invasion of the Occupation would occur, casting homeless and other people who have voluntarily given up their homes to engage in the ongoing vigil for freedoms out into winter harshness. This is compassionate conservatism? Homeless shelters in Boise are swamped, and people staying in them have the winter “crud”. This is all an authoritarian domination tactic from Legislators scared of seeing the same freedoms they claim to espouse being practiced.
Photos from the initial house Hearing on Wednesday. Representative Phyllis King spoke out strongly in opposition to moving the Bill forward and said she supported Occupy Boise.
This hearing was the first time that bags have been searched going into a hearing room in the Legislator, including my fanny pack. There was law enforcement of all kinds present.
Several Occupiers wore outdoor hats.
Every politician in this state, from Governor Butch Otter on down, cloaks his or herself in the mantle of “Freedom”. Especially freedom from the shackles of pesky government regulations and controls. In fact, when the bill was being discussed by the Committee, it was preceded by a long-time lobbyist for mining and other corporations praising the Legislature for not passing much legislation last session. The lobbyist also warned them to keep their eyes on the state agencies – lest some overzealous bureaucrat actually enforce environmental or other laws on the books.
Freedom – except when it offends a newfound sense of sterility, control and aesthetics. For goodness sake, this is gun toting big game hunting Idaho where outing tents just like those across the street at Occupy Boise are Holy. Now suddenly symbols of being in an outdoor space have become “unaesthetic”?
Tending state property right before the Idaho House Hearing - an Occupier shovels snow to provide public access to the Idaho Veteran’s Memorial at the Occupy site.