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Occupy bill testimony: ‘We are not breaking law, don’t turn us into lawbreakers’

Hearing on Wednesday on HB 404, the anti-Occupy Boise bill (Betsy Russell)
Hearing on Wednesday on HB 404, the anti-Occupy Boise bill (Betsy Russell)

Some of the testimony at the HB 404 hearing this morning, the bill to evict the Occupy Boise encampment from state property across from the Capitol:

Russell Buschert, a businessman and 28-year resident of Eagle, asked the senators, "Do you really think that if Jesus was in your chair right now that he would vote to evict these people?" He said, "The freedom of speech and the right to protest are the most precious rights we have."

Former Boise city councilwoman Anne Hausrath said there is, in fact, an emergency, but it's not the Occupy encampment across from the Capitol. "Times are tough for most Idaho families, for many they are dire," she said. "For too long we have ignored the root causes of our financial crisis."

Retired electrical engineer Peter Reali, 68, told lawmakers, "Ordinary people are angry as never before - they feel hopeless about making changes." He said, "People are not camping but exercising their constitutional rights to free speech."

Mike Despot, a 35-year Boise resident and former state facilities manager for the Capitol Mall, asked, "Why is it an emergency to pass this anti-free speech bill?" In a prepared statement he had Dean Gunderson read for him because he's legally blind, Despot said, "Occupy is at the site in part to urge you to help us, the 99 percent, change the corrupt national system. We are not your enemy. We are your fellow citizens. ... Since we are not breaking the law, I ask that you not turn us into lawbreakers."

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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