Idaho Republican lawmakers counting down the days to an eviction of Occupy Boise need to stop counting. While the makeshift home of Idaho's most visible protest needs to vacate the premises of the grounds in front of the Old Ada County Courthouse, a federal judge ruled that the movement--and yes, that includes tents--could remain.
"Guess what? Our vigil stays," attorney Bryan Walker shouted to Occupiers, hours after appearing before U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill.
In a 16-page ruling, Winmill wrote that while the State of Idaho could prohibit camping, it could not prohibit a tent city representing Occupiers' grievances. Simply put, the tents, as symbols, are protected as free speech.
"We'll go back to court for an evidentiary hearing in about a month," said Walker. "We'll get another bite at that camping apple."
But for now, the only apples that Occupiers may bite will be the uncooked variety.
"You can eat here, you just can't prepare food here," Occupier Dean Gunderson told his colleagues. "The stoves, firewood and kitchen equipment have to go."
Protesters were planning to move their cooking gear, along with their personal belongings, by Friday, March 2. Winmill said he wanted to allow time so that all parties read and understood the decision.
"I take March 2 to mean that our deadline is 5 p.m. on Friday," said Walker.
Also reading the decision were more than a few lawmakers in the Idaho Statehouse, across the street from the encampment. Winmill took particular exception to the Republican majority's targeting of the Occupiers.
"Here, there is evidence that the State's enforcement of the recently passed Idaho law banning camping on state grounds targeted Occupy Boise's expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment," wrote Winmill. "Because the reach of the State's enforcement may exceed the grasp of the statute, this creates the appearance that the State is stretching to suppress the core political message of Occupy Boise."
Tim Teater wondered aloud if lawmakers would still try to oust the Occupiers.
"What's to keep the Legislature from rewriting their law that would make it more amendable to Judge Winmill's ruling?" asked Teater.
Walker thought for a moment.
"That possibility exists as long as they're in session," said the attorney. "We're keeping an eye on that."