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Idaho AG, ISP address statements made by Lt. Governor on homelessness demonstration near Capitol

In recent weeks Lt. Gov. McGeachin has called for action on the homelessness demonstration near the Capitol.

BOISE, Idaho — Over the weekend, Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin continued to speak out about the demonstration set up across the street from the Capitol. Demonstrators tell KTVB that they are trying to draw attention to the lack of affordable housing and available emergency shelter beds. Skeptics, including McGeachin, disagree, saying this about something else.  

“Liberal and former BLM activists are exploiting the homeless. They want you and I to pay for shelter with no rules,” McGeachin said during the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee's Lincoln Day Dinner over the weekend.

McGeachin’s involvement in the situation dates back a few weeks. Back on February 2nd, McGeachin sent a letter to the Governor and Attorney General about the demonstration at the old Ada County Court House. She wrote that demonstrators are violating an Idaho Code that prohibits camping on specific state property and anyone violating that code, she says, is ”considered guilty of an infraction and required to remove all personal property from the area.” She adds that Idaho code gives the Department of Administration the authority to close an area if there is landscape destruction.

The letter goes on to say that Idaho State Police have tried to work with the community on a solution but to no avail. So, she calls on Governor Little and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden to take action to enforce the Idaho code she referenced.  

That same day, McGeachin took to social media to share her frustrations with the situation saying the demonstration should not be protected as symbolic speech because they are breaking Idaho code. McGeachin appears to also take credit for ISP troopers going through the demonstration to take contraband and clear trash.  

Two days later, Feb. 4th, The AG’s office responded to McGeachin’s letter saying “The purpose of my correspondence is to note how unhelpful your letter was in regard to the overall work the State has been doing in recent weeks on this very issue. Multiple State offices and agencies have collaborated in an attempt to rectify a delicate situation that requires a balance of complex legal matters involving state statutes, case law and the First Amendment.”

The letter finishes saying,

“Contrary to the assertion in your letter, neither the Idaho Constitution nor Idaho Code provide the Attorney General with enforcement authority over the Capitol Mall grounds. That authority is specifically assigned by statute to the Department of Administration and the Idaho State Police. Those entities continue to enforce Idaho law in a manner that is responsible, measured, and legally defensible should it be challenged in court. If the State or its agencies’ actions are challenged in court, this office stands ready to defend them.”

That same day, Feb. 4th, McGeachin also heard back from the director of the Idaho State Police, Col. Kedrick Wills. His letter starts by acknowledging McGeachin’s comments saying, “in which you were critical of Idaho State Police's response to the situation at the Capitol Annex. I am also aware of recent statements you have made on social media.” Wills wrote. He goes on to say, “Troopers previously briefed you on the situation at your request. As was communicated to you, the situation at the Capitol Annex is highly complex and involves vulnerable members of our community deserving of respect. ISP is working closely with the stakeholders to execute a deliberate and strategic response that protects the rights and interests of the public as well as those present at the annex.” The letter finishes saying, “Please be cognizant that your public statements on this matter may be counterproductive to police efforts and subject the state to unnecessary legal risk.”

Despite the letters to McGeachin, this past weekend she doubled down on her idea to simply clear the demonstration, despite clear legal issues.

“It can be corrected through administrative rule,” McGeachin said. “To our attorney general, I invite you to come to my office and we'll be happy to share this idea with you how we can through administrative rule clean up Tent City.”

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