In an ongoing struggle over new state guidelines for protesters’ use of the Idaho Capitol steps and surrounding grounds, the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho announced Tuesday afternoon the launch of a hot line Gem State demonstrators can access if they have reason to believe their First Amendment rights have been compromised
“The importance of the First Amendment rights to speak, protest and assemble can’t be underestimated here in this building,” said ACLU Idaho legal director Ritchie Eppink. “The state’s new rules elevate Frisbee games and picnics to a perch higher than even the people’s voice to their government. They are confusing rules as well, and we have already received concerns from citizens who feel confused and deterred by those rules from bringing their voice and bringing their protest to the Legislature during this session.”
In the wake of a 2012 legislative session that saw citizens place Post-It notes Statehouse doors and walls in support of Add the Words to backlash from members of Occupy Boise, ACLU is suing the state over the constitutionality of the new rules. In the meantime, they hope the hot line can serve Idahoans who may believe their rights are infringed during the 2013 legislative session.
“While Idahoans all across the state are waiting for those decisions, they cannot hold their tongues while our legislature is making laws and policies that will effect their businesses and their livelihoods and all of our futures,” said Eppink.
The new state rules give priority use of the Capitol grounds to groups that apply for and receive a permit. According to the Idaho Department of Administration, which oversees use of the steps and grounds, a group without a permit may be asked to leave the Capitol grounds if another group arrives with a permit for use. The permit is not required by organizations that wish to assemble on the Capitol’s grounds, but acts as a formal placeholder securing the space for use.
Both a Treasure Valley local phone number—208-994-3386—and a statewide toll-free number—800-542-4737—will be forwarded to ACLU Idaho staff 24/7. Citizens will also be able to reach out to ACLU Idaho advocates at acluidaho.org/legislative/yourstatehouse.