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Eye On Boise

Lawn care tent ban ends, but Occupy Boise tents haven’t returned

An eight-week ban on tents at the Occupy Boise vigil site on the grounds of the Capitol Annex in favor of lawn care has ended, but the tents haven't returned. Occupy members told the Associated Press they might wait until fall, as any tents erected now would have to be removed nightly to allow for watering and weekly for mowing. Plus, in the fall, Idahoans will be more focused on politics and the upcoming election. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

Occupy Boise might delay pitching tents until fall
By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Occupy Boise protesters who are once again free to pitch their tents on a state-owned lawn near the Idaho Capitol said Wednesday they might wait until sprinklers are off and the November election is at hand before re-occupying the land.

The group opposing what it sees as government collusion with greedy Wall Street bankers was ordered on June 13 to vacate the Capitol Annex grounds for eight weeks to allow the state to repair lawns damaged by tents that were first erected last Nov. 5.

The order by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill allows Occupy Boise to resume its vigil this week, but the site of the old Ada County Courthouse remained tent-free.

One Occupy leader, Dean Gunderson, said pitching tents now would require supporters to remove them nightly to allow for watering. Consequently, the group might wait until sprinklers are turned off and weekly mowing is unnecessary.

The message the tents convey will resonate more deeply when people are focused on the November elections, not summer vacation, Gunderson said.

"It's fair to say that we are always interested in the best way to have a discussion in the public forum about what the proper role of government should be," he said. "If that is via tents — if it becomes apparent that tents are still the best way — we'll make a proposal and if it's something we reach consensus on, we will be back there with tents."

During the 2012 Legislature, a Republican-led effort to remove the protesters from grounds of the courthouse failed. In February, Winmill decided a law signed by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter to forcibly remove the tents violated Occupy Boise's free-speech rights.

The state could ban camping activities like cooking and sleeping, Winmill concluded. But the tents could stay.

At the request of the Department of Administration, Winmill modified his decision, forcing the protesters to take down their tents until mid-August to allow state workers to fix the lawns. Winmill also said activists had to allow unobstructed access for workers to water and mow, as well as perform routine maintenance such as aeration and fertilization.

Gunderson said that provision would add to the already difficult business of running the Occupy vigil — especially for an all-volunteer group whose members are currently balancing jobs and other obligations.

On Monday, the Idaho Department of Administration, the agency that manages the Capitol Annex grounds, sent Occupy Boise a letter outlining its expectations.

For instance, portions of the lawn hadn't sufficiently recovered and should be off-limits, agency attorney Clay Smith wrote, while other areas were only available for limited use because construction workers would be installing sewer lines and underground telecommunication cables later this fall.

Smith's letter also makes a special request if campers return: Use only tents or structures without floors to minimize damage to the lawn.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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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