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Eye On Boise

Occupy Boise blasts state attempt to evict their tents to allow lawnmowing, maintenance

The Occupy Boise group says there's no emergency requiring evicting their 24/7 vigil to allow lawnmowing, sprinkling and the start of a construction project inside the vacant Capitol Annex. In its response filed this week to a state motion asking a federal judge to reconsider his earlier ruling allowing the tents to remain, Bryan Walker, attorney for the Occupy group wrote, “Things are just as they were when this Court entered the injunction: the State's unceasing efforts to squelch disfavored political protest still continue.” Walker referred to the state's motion asking the judge to alter his order as “its latest scheme to evict Occupy Boise.”

A hearing in the case is scheduled for June 7. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Alex Morrell; you can read the Occupy group's filing here, and the state's motion here. At the Occupy site today, across from the state Capitol, a couple of tents were being moved, while others stand. A volunteer explained that some were being moved around to accommodate the state's planned construction fencing for its work inside the building; there's still plenty of room on the lawn for the remaining tents. Two other people sat smoking and talking, along with a small dog, inside one of the larger tents; there was no one else around.

The federal judge's earlier order found that the 24-hour presence of the tents is a form of symbolic speech protected by the 1st Amendment, so the state couldn't evict them; but he didn't block the state's new law, enacted on an emergency basis by lawmakers this session, to ban camping on the Capitol Mall grounds. That means the Occupy group can have its tents there and maintain a 24-hour vigil, but can't sleep in them.

Occupy rebuffs state call to reconsider injunction
By ALEX MORRELL, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Occupy Boise wants a federal judge to uphold his ruling that allowed the protest group's tents to remain on the grounds of the old Ada County Courthouse.

Bryan Walker, an Occupy lawyer, filed a response Monday to the state's motion to have U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill reconsider his preliminary injunction, telling Winmill he got it right the first time.

“There is no change in circumstances. This Court did not err,” Walker wrote in his response. “Rather, things are just as they were when this Court entered the injunction: the State's unceasing efforts to squelch disfavored political protest still continue.”

Winmill decided in February that Occupy's tents constitute a protected symbol of their protest against income inequality and prohibited the state from enforcing a newly passed law banning camping on state-managed land. He decided an around-the-clock protest with tents could continue for the time being but ordered camping-related activities to cease.

An evidentiary hearing is scheduled for June.

But the state attorney general's office asked Winmill in March to modify that decision, saying the state needs protesters to temporarily vacate so crews can perform maintenance and repair damage to the grounds caused since Occupy took over the land in November.

Deputy Attorney General Carl Withroe wrote in the motion that the group's vigil “prevents the state from adequately maintaining the property.”

“It has caused significant damage to the grounds and Plaintiffs' refusal to temporarily relocate has effectively obstructed the state's efforts to repair and maintain the grounds,” Withroe continued.

The state says part of the property also needs to be closed off in May for construction to the old courthouse, which will be renovated into a law library for the University of Idaho.

But Walker rejected that the maintenance or construction represent compelling new evidence to overturn Winmill's initial ruling.

Occupy participants have acknowledged some damage to the courthouse lawn and Walker says they've offered alternative relocations, but he said attempts by protesters to negotiate a temporary move have fallen on deaf ears.

“We've sent them correspondences on three different occasions offering to move the demonstration to non-grassy areas of the Capitol Mall complex, and they've ignored it. They've just flat ignored it,” Walker told The Associated Press.

Winmill is reviewing the motion.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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