A day of demonstrations has begun on this Martin Luther King Jr./Idaho Human Rights Day, as an array of social-justice groups released “Facing Race, 2009 Legislative Progress Report on Racial Equity” at a rally on the east steps of the Capitol. The groups, the ACLU of Idaho, the Applied Research Center, Idaho Community Action Network, Idaho Human Rights Education Center, Idaho Women’s Network, the Interfaith Alliance of Idaho, and the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations, contend that state lawmakers could do more to promote equity and racial justice in their policy-making.
At the groups’ rally, a crowd of about 75, including many teens, held signs with slogans including “Opportunity for All,” “Unequal Race has *No* Place in Idaho,” and “One Voice, Multiple Colors.” Amy Herzfeld of the Idaho Human Rights Education Center told the group, “Idaho’s elected officials may not intend to perpetuate institutional discrimination,” but she said that’s been the result of the state’s decisions. The groups cited the defeat of legislation to allow school districts to offer pre-kindergarten, which they said is disproportionately unavailable to children of color; the defeat of a bill to expunge criminal records of innocent people; and the enactment of legislation last year to cut funding for the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs, among other pieces of legislation last year. This year, Gov. Butch Otter is proposing eliminating state funding for that commission, along with the Idaho Human Rights Commission, the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and several others in a four-year phase-out.
While they rallied, a few older people holding a bright-green sign saying “No Govt Health Care” showed up, then turned back and went back around to the front of the state Capitol. They were headed for the “Tea Party Convergence on the Capitol” rally, scheduled to start at 11 a.m. with a decidedly different agenda. Also set for today are the state’s official Martin Luther King Jr./Idaho Human Rights ceremony at noon in the second-floor rotunda; and the annual BSU civil rights march, which will rally at 11:30 at Boise City Hall, while the Capitol’s south steps are taken up by the Tea Party group.