MERIDIAN, Idaho — The Meridian Police Department is condemning the actions of an Idaho militia leader who sent out a police officer's home address and showed up with his followers at the man's house to protest an arrest he had made earlier that day.
The situation stems from the Tuesday arrest of Sara Brady, who was charged with misdemeanor trespassing after she refused to leave a closed playground in Meridian.
Brady was one of a crowd of people who showed up with their children at Kleiner Park as part of a protest over the closure of the play structure. The City of Meridian shut down and taped off their playgrounds in March in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19, which can live on plastics, like a playground slide, for several days.
In video taken of that protest, a Meridian Police officer can be heard telling the group the playground equipment was closed, but they could play in the grassy area. Brady repeatedly refused to leave the playground, and was ultimately taken into custody after telling the officer to arrest her.
The same day, Ammon Bundy held a meeting in Emmett, telling his supporters their rights were in jeopardy and calling for more protests.
Bundy, who is a member of several anti-government movements and led the 2016 occupation of a bird and wildlife refuge in Harney County, Oregon, has been vocal about opposing restrictions related to the coronavirus, previously calling for people to gather for an Easter celebration despite warnings from the Center For Disease Control that large gatherings should be avoided due to how easily the virus can spread from person to person.
At the Tuesday meeting, Bundy called for people to go to Gov. Brad Little's home in Emmett and Idaho Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen's house in Eagle to protest, before announcing that a third site in Meridian had been added to the list.
"We have changed our plans a little bit, but we are going to go to the sergeant's house that arrested this mother at the park," Bundy says in a video recorded of the meeting. "And we might go around to his neighbors and knock on the door, and say, 'hey, your neighbor is the man who arrests mothers for going to the park.'"
During the meeting, Bundy texted the three home addresses out to a listserv and had them written down on a whiteboard, encouraging people in the room to share them with others.
One video published online that clearly shows the Meridian Police officer's home address has been viewed more than 1,200 times.
Bundy described the three - Little, Jeppesen and the officer - as "bad actors," but encouraged his followers to be "respectful" during the protests.
"We are not an unruly people, we are not going to the governor's house to threaten him. We are going right now to petition him," Bundy said. "And we are going to the sergeant's house that arrested this mother with her children in the park, uh, to - what are we doing there?"
The question drew a laugh from the crowd, and someone yelled "put him on notice!"
"We're gonna put him on notice, we're going to inform his neighbors," Bundy agreed.
He added that we wanted to "serve" all three protest targets with a 13-page complaint about the stay-at-home order and the closures that have been enacted since Idaho's COVID-19 state of emergency declaration in March.
Bundy suggested that showing up at the homes of the governor, IDHW director, and the Meridian Police officer was merely a first step.
"We must do everything we can with the mechanisms that have been given us to try to correct these matters, and if they will not correct than other measures may be taken," he said.
A second video, shared with KTVB by the woman who took it, shows Bundy and the group standing outside the officer’s home. They were met by four other Meridian Police officers, who stood on the driveway, blocking the protestors from going onto his yard or up to his house.
At one point Bundy demanded to be allowed to go knock on the officer's door, arguing that he had a right to give the man a printed complaint.
"You've been told not to come on the property," one of the officers responds.
"You don't get to make the rules here!" Bundy yells back.
An officer outside the house agrees to take the printed packet up to the homeowner's door and leave it there, but tells the protestors they need to stay on the sidewalk, which is public property.
At about the 12-minute mark of the video, the protest seems to end, with people drifting away back into their cars. The officer who lives at that address did not come outside during the protest.
Meridian Police told KTVB in a statement that while citizens have the right to demonstrate on public property, the department does not support people showing up at officers’ homes because they disagree with an arrest.
"The Meridian Police Department supports the right to peacefully protest. There are many things people can do, but shouldn't and protesting in front of an officer's home is one of them," the department said. "This potentially puts officers’ and public officials’ lives, and the lives of their families, in danger. With that, we have safety measures in place for our officers and won't speak to our tactics regarding the security of our officers. Officer safety is of the utmost importance to our department. We hope that everyone respects the private homes and families of our community. There is no reason to disrupt anyone's privacy."
Gov. Brad Little was even more succinct when asked during a Thursday press conference what he thought about Bundy and his group showing up at the officer's home.
"Disgusting," the governor replied. "Next question."
Idaho Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Meridian, also condemned the situation, arguing that Sara Brady had intentionally "staged" her own arrest and that going to the officer's home was inappropriate.
"Ammon Bundy is bringing all kinds of additional threat and risk to this police officer and his family," he said. "Go home, Ammon."
But officials are not the only ones calling for people to stay away from individual citizens' homes.
The family of Sara Brady - who was released from jail on a $300 bond after her trespassing arrest - has asked Meridian Police for protection and extra patrols at her house after her home address was also leaked online.
Meridian Police has obliged that request, the department says, and is asking people not to go to Brady's house.
"Please stay away from her home, this just takes away from our abilities to protect the community," the department posted.