2012-02-02 "Occupy Boise Faces Eviction" by Scott Ki from Boise State Public Radio
BOISE, ID – Occupy Wall Street sparked a national movement last fall that resonated in Idaho too. By November, Occupy Boise protestors had set up camp on state land and now some legislators want them off. What’s happening locally reflects a national struggle where First Amendment rights conflict with rules about camping on public land.
You can see that struggle play out in the nation’s capital at McPherson Square. It sits in the heart of downtown Washington, D.C. Its northern edge runs along K Street… ground zero for lobbyists and power brokers. Three blocks away is the White House. Occupy D.C. has camped in McPherson Square since October. National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis came under fire last week by some members of Congress for lax enforcement.
Jonathan Jarvis: “NPS regulations do not allow for camping within McPherson Square. However, temporary structures including tents are permissible as part of a demonstration and a 24-hour, round-the-clock vigil is also allowed.”
Camping is partly defined as sleeping, or preparing to sleep, according to Jarvis. The agency started to enforce this rule Monday. But many Occupy D.C. protestors are finding ways around the ban.
Tents still crowd McPherson Square. But protestors that fall asleep or have bedding or a camp stove in their tents risk arrest. Occupy D.C. is a hubbub of activity day and night. But in Idaho, Occupy Boise protestors are quieter.
A handful of them gather around a wood stove in a large tent. About a dozen others are outside in the sun doing chores. Some break up a wood pallet to feed the stove. A few take visitors on a tour of the site which sits on the grounds of the old Ada County Courthouse. …. Speaker of the House Lawerence Denney has a bird’s eye view of this mini tent city from the state Capitol:
Rep. Lawerence Denney: “It is right outside my window and I can look out there and I don’t think I’ve ever looked out the window when I’ve seen more than two or three people over there. You know, I think the Occupy is more tents than people.”
Mike Dooley: “It’s funny because, you know, I’ve seen reports on the news of people standing across the street and saying, you know, we haven’t seen any activity. But it’s freaking raining so we’re all in these big union tents keeping warm with our wood burning stoves.”
Dooley is homeless and from Boise. The 22-year old used to live in a shelter but preferred the relative freedom of Occupy. His future and those of other Occupy Boise protestors are in the hands of state lawmakers who gather in the Idaho Capitol across the street from their encampment. Some legislators want to ban camping on the Capitol Mall. The Idaho Department of Administration manages the land. Teresa Luna directs the agency. Idaho lawmakers asked her questions about Occupy Boise last week during a committee hearing for House Bill 404. Luna says she supports the bill which bans camping on lands her department manages.
Teresa Luna: “We’re not trying to end freedom of speech. We’re trying to end camping on admin. properties. We simply don’t have the authority nor the resources to deal with this type of activity not here on the Capitol Mall and certainly not on those properties we manage across the state.”
At that hearing and another, this Wednesday, nearly everyone who testified supported Occupy Boise protestors. Marley Luna, no relation to Teresa, spoke before state lawmakers last week. She spends her days at Occupy and works nights as an elder care worker.
Marley Luna: “One of the reasons that we’re here protesting is because we feel that the voices of the people get marginalized. And then they introduce this bill, House Bill 404, which does just that.”
Those violating the draft law would be guilty of an infraction and could be removed from the site. Occupy protestors, including Mike Dooley, have been planning what to do if the bill passes.
Dooley: “I can say that we do have plans. That we’re not just going to pack up and leave.”
The bill sailed through the House. But some state Senators want to change it to give more time for Occupy Boise to clear out. Right now, the legislation would take effect immediately once the governor signs it. But some lawmakers say that’s not fair and want to give protesters until July 1st to pack up their tents … and go home.