by April Foster
The Idaho Legislature is still working on a measure that could effectively evict Occupy Boise from the site of its months-long vigil. However, the bill hit a snag last week when members of the Senate State Affairs Committee raised concerns with some of its wording and sent it back for modifications. The committee's reluctance didn't put Occupiers in the clear, but some said it gave them a little more room to breathe.
“Anything that delays injustice is a victory for justice,” said Occupier Dean Gunderson. “Occupy Boise takes the position that for all Idahoans, this particular bill is a violation of the state constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.”
The language of the bill would ban camping on the Capitol Mall—something that Occupy Boise is OK with. The difference, the Occupiers claim, is that they aren’t camping; they’re holding a protest.
“If they passed an anti-camping ordinance that says the folks who can’t get into a KOA aren’t allowed to camp at the Capitol Mall, then yeah,” said Gunderson. “But if some group is engaging in political protest, that’s a protected right under the Idaho Constitution and it should be allowed.”
The bill is expected to go before the State Senate as early as Tuesday. Even though public testimony will not be allowed, the Occupiers plan to keep a watch over the proceedings.
“Several of us will be in the public gallery just to see who says what,” said Gunderson. “Business like this is obtuse; you almost have to be a constitutional scholar just to understand the rules and how they process things. Even so, it’s very important that we actually do it—that we actually be there—because otherwise, how would we know?”
Regardless of disputes over the wording of the legislation, Gunderson fully expects the bill to pass. After Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signs it into law, Occupy Boise intends to make sure that the bill holds up to constitutional muster.
“I fully expect the bill to be passed by the Senate tomorrow and go back to the House with a full vote, and who knows, it may go up for full vote by the end of the week,” said Gunderson. “But I can guarantee it, as soon as that bill passes, there’s going to be constitutional problems with it. And we will file in Federal Court.”