Protesters Arrested As Idaho Lawmakers Try To Lift Emergency Coronavirus Declaration

Aug 25, 2020

Idaho House lawmakers have approved a resolution that would lift the state’s emergency declaration due to the COVID-19 pandemic that’s been in place for months, while protesters continued to disrupt legislative proceedings for a second day.

State representatives passed the resolution 48-20 after about two hours of emotional debate.

House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel (D-Boise) told lawmakers about constituents who have suffered from the virus, or passed it on to a family member who later died.

“It is real and the fact that the death numbers didn’t pan out to be what was originally projected, I think, is a sign that the governor’s measures worked,” Rubel said.

But Rep. Christy Zito, says her constituents have greatly suffered due to the governor’s lockdown.

“It’s time to return to normal. Not a new normal, to normal. To freedom, to liberty, to being Americans in a free country,” Zito said.

House Majority Leader Mike Moyle (R-Star) agreed, saying it’s like there are two Idahos: one, mostly in the Treasure Valley, where masks are required, and other areas in the rest of the state.

Moyle said it was past time to lift the emergency declaration, regardless of whether or not it costs the state millions in federal aid dollars.

“I refuse to be blackmailed for money and I refuse to sell my state and my blessings of my family and everything else for some federal freaking check,” he said.

However, Moyle did receive a $10,000 grant from the state in May for his farm, which was funded by federal coronavirus aid money. 

Rubel says the emergency declaration gives Idaho access to money through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which totals around $117 million.

The effort might be in vain, though.

According to the Idaho Press, the state attorney general’s office issued an opinion saying the resolution would be illegal and likely wouldn’t stand up in court.

Later in the day, a House committee introduced a bill to limit civil liability claims during the pandemic. That was after the meeting was delayed for a couple of hours after an anti-vaccine advocate was ejected from the room for posing as a journalist. Another man was arrested and charged with trespassing at the same time.

Police swarmed the room and formed a line between the screaming audience and lawmakers, who later held the hearing in another room.

Following the confrontation, at least 18 protesters remained in the room, according to Idaho State Police, before House Speaker Scott Bedke (R-Oakley) ordered it to be cleared.

Most complied, but three people, including Ammon Bundy, who occupied a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, refused to leave, police said.

Bundy was handcuffed while sitting in a chair, a state police spokeswoman said, and wheeled out of the building. All three will be booked into the Ada County Jail and charged with misdemeanor trespassing.

They could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted.

In a statement, Bedke called the conduct "unacceptable."

"It is important to protect the rights of all to participate in the process, not simply those who are the most aggressive and have the loudest voices," he said.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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