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Eye On Boise

Testimony: Not a camp, a ‘political message’

Among testimony at this morning's hearing on legislation to evict the Occupy Boise encampment from state land across from the Capitol:

Mike Despot of Boise, who had a supporter read his statement for him because he's legally blind, asked, “Is it truly an emergency to pass this anti-free speech bill?” He said, “We are not your enemy, we are your fellow citizens.”

John McMahon of Boise, a 26-year U.S. Army infantry veteran, University of Idaho graduate and retiree, said he's been active with Occupy Boise since its inception. “I have attended general assembly meetings and participated in many marches, rallies and other activities as well, and will continue to do so,” he said. “I have been present at meetings with state and local officials with whom we have had, I believe, respectful and cordial relationships. My involvement with the Occupy movement is a natural follow-on to my military service, in that I truly believe my services is to defend the Constitution and every American's rights under it. In the last 10 years I have seen many of our rights become eroded and infringed upon.”

Monica Hopkins, executive director of the ACLU of Idaho,  told lawmakers that their bill is modeled after the Boise city camping ordinance, which itself has been the subject of litigation since 2009 and is currently being litigated in the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. That, she said, “leaves the state open to litigation at the expense of Idaho's taxpayers.” She also said the bill “allows authorized persons to seize and dispose of property without due process.” Hopkins said, “The Occupy movement seeks to redress government practices that increase economic inequality, and in Idaho, where the homeless population has jumped 37 percent from 2007 to 2010, a statute such as this one may serve to further intimidate and harass the homeless … for sleeping.”

Mary Bolognino of Boise said, “The Occupy Boise vigil site is not a camp. We're not roasting marshmallows. The purpose of the vigil camp, it is a place for deep moral significance and political purpose. … It is itself a profound political message. It is a piece of political speech.”

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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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