Occupiers Testify Against Eviction Bills at Legislature


Members of Occupy Boise are occupying a room of the Statehouse today, or at least the meeting of the House State Affairs Committee, which is considering a measure that would see the eviction of the encampment, across the street from the Capitol in front of the old Ada County Courthouse.

Two bills, House Bill 380 and House Bill 404 are identical in that they would forbid any camping "on or in any state-owned or leased property or facility, including, but not limited to, the capitol mall." The provision would not apply to parks, Fish and Game lands or endowment lands.

"The bill has been grossly mischaracterized," said the bill's sponsor, House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke. "If the law should pass, everyone will be duly noted and ample time will be provided to get your stuff and go."

But, one by one, Occupiers and their supporters testified against the effort.

"Is the view from the Capitol so disturbing?" asked Occupier Mike Despot. "When you look across Sixthth Street, you get a view of the anger building up in this country. The vigil across the street is what America is becoming."

John McMahon, a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Army, said he regularly attended meetings, rallies and marches with the Occupiers.

"The vigil site is common ground for Idaho's unemployed, underemployed and least-privileged persons," said McMahon.

Indeed, Monica Hopkins, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, said the encampment had become a fixture for the homeless.

"The homeless population in Idaho has jumped 37 percent from 2007 to 2010," said Hopkins. "These bills are an effort to further harass and intimidate the homeless."

Things got a bit testy when Siobhan Shavone Haase said if the measure passed, she would campaign against Republican House Speaker Lawerence Denney.

"That's inappropriate," said Committee Chair Tom Loertscher.

"That's how strongly I feel about it," said Haase, who continued with a poem that included more political editorializing.

"Shut up, says Scott Bedke," said Haase, referring to the bill's sponsor.

"You are out of order and through testifying," said Loertscher.

"It's not a personal assualt," said Haase. "It's a poem."

Testimony is expected to continue on Monday.