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Sierra Club’s youth climate activists can use megaphones in Boise protest, judge says

Lisa Young Sierra Club
Sierra Club v. City of Boise
Lisa Young, the director of the Idaho Sierra Club, leads a protest in Boise.

A federal judge on Wednesday partially granted the Sierra Club a preliminary injunction on a city of Boise noise ordinance before a youth climate strike scheduled for Friday.

The environmental organization sued the city earlier this month over three laws governing public protests and gatherings. The threat of enforcement of one ordinance in particular, which bans loud amplification devices like megaphones in most cases, led to a chilling effect on free speech, the group said.

In an oral decision following a hearing, Chief District Judge David C. Nye partially blocked the ordinance. This means youth climate protestors can use megaphones during a Friday protest without fear of violating city laws.

“It’s really nice that we can use a megaphone,” said Nicholas Thomas, a student at Boise High School. “That is what I was hoping to be able to use. It’s kind of a universal symbol of people power -- of protesting.”

Nikita Thomas, his twin and co-president of the group organizing the protest, said on Friday, they’ll march from the Idaho State Capitol to Boise City Hall and read letters to local leaders, urging them to adopt community-owned solar power.

“It really lifts up communities that aren’t able to afford solar,” Thomas said, “and it makes it so we can all transition to clean energy together.”

The injunction issued this week is temporary and limited. It only applies to the Sierra Club and actions in downtown Boise. The judge kept in effect two other laws the organization is challenging, relating to gatherings and noise in parks, as the lawsuit moves forward.

In the hearing conducted over Zoom on Wednesday, Casey Parsons, an attorney for the Sierra Club, argued that the noise ordinance gives the city overly-broad discretion for enforcement or denial of activities that amplify sound.

They also noted that exemptions for certain institutions, like churches and schools, could signal that speech is restricted based on its content, which they argued would be unconstitutional.

In response, the city’s attorney said the city noise ordinances are restricting the manner, not the content, of speech.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on X @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2024 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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