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Idaho Sues to End Tent Protest Near State Capitol Building

March 15, 2022 by Dan McCue
Idaho Sues to End Tent Protest Near State Capitol Building
A camp site outside the Idaho State Capitol. (Screen grab from KTVB-TV)

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Brad Little and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden filed a lawsuit Tuesday to bring an end to a monthslong protest by campers outside the Capitol Annex intended to bring attention to homelessness in the state.

Specifically, Little and Wasden are seeking an injunction to stop the illegal camping and the associated safety and public health violations they claim are taking place outside the Annex which is located in downtown Boise.

“Idaho will not tolerate public encampments and destruction of public property. Idaho is not San Francisco, Portland, or Seattle, where public officials have engaged in failed experiments to permit and encourage public camping disguised as protests,” Little said in a written statement.

“What started here as a gathering of loosely affiliated individuals has escalated into dangerous health and safety violations,” he continued. “This lawsuit is the next step in our deliberate, careful strategy to address a highly complex situation involving state statutes, case law, and the First Amendment while ensuring the state meets its obligation to protect public health and safety.”

The protests began on the capitol grounds shortly after New Year and the number of demonstrators has grown ever since.

Initially, Boise Mayor Lauren McLean appeared to try to empathize with those slowly erecting a tent community on the site.

“While we are working on developing permanent supportive housing for Boiseans experiencing homelessness, the Our Path Home team is also constantly working to serve their immediate needs in these frigid temperatures,” McLean said in a written statement shortly after the first tents arrived.

“This includes the winter warm-up day shelter at 511 S. Americana Boulevard, contributing $10,000 to the Severe Weather Emergency Overflow Program, and our street teams ensuring that every person knows they have safe, warm places to go,” she said.

Since then, however, state officials say there has been a growing number of calls for law enforcement after instances of violence, drug sales and overdoses and piles of abandoned garbage.

Little maintained that the public camping near the Capitol Mall is indefensible, especially given the amount of resources that are available to the homeless in the city.

These include shelters that provide a safe place to sleep, three meals a day, and services tailored to those with mental health or substance abuse issues.

In his announcement of the lawsuit, Little said he is “grateful to our law enforcement officers who have conducted welfare checks and enforcement actions with integrity by treating these very vulnerable members of our community with respect and connecting them with valuable resources to help address mental health and substance use disorders in many instances.”

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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