by Andrew Crisp
The Idaho State Senate leadership today pulled a dozen members of Occupy Boise out of the Senate Gallery to discuss cloth, dollar-store American flags pinned to each individual's shirt. In the Minority Caucus room on the fourth floor of the Capitol, Idaho Falls Sen. Bart Davis asked them to remove the flags.
"We have asked many people over the years, people I have agreed with and I have disagreed with," said Sen. Davis. "To not wear buttons, and to not wear hats, and we're asking you please to be similarly sympathetic to allow us to do our business in that fashion."
Ten minutes prior to the meeting of the full Senate, a dozen members of Occupy Boise entered the public gallery, checking in with security to comply with increased security proceedings related to bags. At the desk outside the doors, they safety-pinned American flags to their chests, a protest against the proposed amendments to House Bill 404, which sits on the 14th order awaiting consideration.
But as the Senate got into its business, the proceedings were halted, when Rexburg Sen. Brent Hill beckoned the Occupiers to enter an adjacent caucus room, followed by Minority leaders Pocatello Sen. Edgar Malepeai and Ketchum Sen. Michelle Stennett.
"This is actually following flag protocol," said Occupier Dean Gunderson. "We are absolutely allowed to wear the American flag as a symbol of our patriotism."
Sen. Davis said the flag "wasn't respectful," and again asked them to remove them.
"I'm expressing my desires. I'm asking you to be respectful in that fashion," said Davis. "If you are not willing to be respectful, we understand that's what you're gonna do."
Davis also reminded the Occupiers that the Senate would not be considering the amendments to the Occupy eviction bill, House Bill 404, today. After their reprimand, the Occupiers left the gallery.
"I think it's really worth noting, and I think the general public needs to understand, the Senate just decided that the American flag is indecorous. The actual wearing of the American Flag, as a legitimate part of patriotic groups, which we're permitted to do," said Gunderson. "The Senate decided that that was inappropriate."
The Senate returned to business, but adjourned once more at about 11:20 a.m. Sen. Stennet and Sen. Malepeai again huddled with Occupiers on the fourth floor of the Rotunda.
"We have no legal right to tell you not to wear the flags," Sen. Stennett told the Occupiers. "[Sen. Hill] just wants it to be quiet, and he wants it to be respectful."