Here’s a fast recap of events of the past couple of weeks in the assault by the Idaho legislature on the Occupy Boise Vigil site.
Occupiers and the community turned out at the Senate State Affairs Committee Hearing in early February. In three days of testimony, first two in the House, and then this day in the Senate, only a single person supported the Bedke anti-camping Bill. The Senate testimony was cut off. Dozens of people, including several from the Vigil site, were unable to testify due to the limited time. All told, the testimony in the House and Senate ended up being around 45 people opposing the repressive Bill to only a single person in support.
Senator Hammond from Coeur d’Alene had drawn the short straw to be the Bill’s Senate sponsor. He had to explain how grass was more important than people.
The Committee voted 7 to 1 to send the Bill to amending orders i.e. add amendments to try to cover themselves from getting sued. This was not out of concern over the rights of Idaho citizens to assemble and to exercise free speech in holding a peaceful Vigil. Nope. The main concern was the Bill’s violations of property rights clauses of the Constitution, and how the harsh emergency clause would be interpreted. The poorly written Bill would immediately allow seizure of tents and other “indicia” of camping at the site. Senator Michelle Stennett was the only Senator brave enough to oppose the Bill in its entirety.
At the close of the session, Committee Chair McKenzie commended the Occupy Boise supporters for their conduct at the Hearing.
But the good behavior and demeanor of the Occupiers has only been met with increasingly authoritarian actions by the State.
Occupy Boise sign from recent rally opposing the NDAA.
The Capitol had already been on lockdown when Occupiers entered it since Martin Luther King Day. Paranoid House Speaker Denney used someone losing a card key for a door in the Capitol as an excuse to impose a selective police state presence on Occupiers. Originally, Denney claimed an Occupier had somehow made off with the card during an informational tour of the Capitol led by Boise Rep. Brian Cronin. Then following the Senate Committee hearing, word emerged that Denney had known all along that Occupy Boise folks had been nowhere near where the card went missing. Denney also told a reporter for the Spokesman-Review that the capitol would remain on lockdown until they had disposed of Occupy Boise,
As the lockdown tightened, an Occupy Boise member attempting to film one of the Senate sessions on the Bill amendments was, in his words, removed from the Gallery and “abducted” by the Sergeant at Arms and law enforcement. He was taken to a room, where he was forced to wait with another Occupier for more than an hour. He repeatedly pointed out there was no rule preventing filming in the Senate Gallery. Despite this, Occupy Boise was told by state officials that filming was a “gray area”.
This was followed by more bizarre authoritarian measures at future sessions as the Senate muddled through the amending process. Occupy Boise was forbidden to wear hats in the Senate gallery, along with any stickers, or clothing with any symbols.
The Occupy Boise Website shows how ridiculous this has become.
How much Idaho state trooper time has been wasted on the ridiculous show of force throughout this speech-suppressing Bill spectacle to date? In the past three weeks, the Speaker of the House and his minions have put in place the trappings of a security state to harass and suppress those they consider riffraff.
There are Committee meetings and full Senate and House votes held in the statehouse all the time. Members of the public attending those don’t get searched. Police or Trooper presence is minimal at these other sessions. But the place goes on lockdown when Occupy Boise shows up.
After Occupy Boise was told hats and symbols were forbidden, folks pinned American flags on their chests, and were let into the Gallery. The Gallery is the only place where the public can be in the full Senate vote sessions. The Gallery is way above the Senate. So it is impossible to claim that a hat or sticker could really be a distraction for any Senator. This is all about authoritarianism, and showing who is boss.
Security personnel motioned everyone with a flag pinned on their chest out of the gallery. They herded people into a small side room. The Leaders of the Senate (Senators Hill and Davis) came into the room and said wearing the flags was not appropriate and was not respectful.
Occupy Boise herded into small room for sin of wearing flags.
Senate Milling about as they considered amendments.
The Senate appeared to have violated its own rules for amendments in a confusing multi-session amending process. It first approved an amendment that would allow camping on university property – which was brought forth in the context of sports events. This passed. But shenanigans by Senate leaders later sidelined it. Confusion reigned as amendments were raised. The property seizure one is the only amendment to have survived.
The full Senate now has to vote on the Bill (likely today), and send it to the House. The House is expected to act quickly. It has been very difficult for these authoritarians to try to wordsmith a bill that does not just come out and say “This Bill Is Aimed At Getting Rid of Occupy Boise”.
It is likely that within the next day or two, the Bill will be passed. Then Gov. Butch Otter is certain to sign it – so an eviction could happen very quickly.
The “emergency” seems to be that real people are really hurting in Idaho – and the Vigil Site is vivid evidence of that right across the street from the marble and velvet rarefied atmosphere of self-importance in the Legislature.
And goodness knows, the Idaho Legislature has much more important business to get onto – like proposed wolf killing legislation allowing more ways to gun down wolves – including from paragliders.
This would be a follow-up to the Senate State Affairs Committee killing the hopes of LGBT Idahoans – including 300 people who attended a reading of a Bill to add protections against gender discrimination last Friday. The Bill never even got a hearing! The legislators are afraid of gay people even being given a chance to speak within their marble halls. They’re afraid they won’t win re-election, and many of them just plain seem afraid to recognize, or even be exposed to, diversity of any kind.