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Tensions flare at protest of unhoused tent city and counter-protest potluck

No violence occurred, and by around 4 p.m., both crowds had gotten considerably smaller and less vocal.

BOISE, Idaho — This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press.

A planned rally by the group Idaho Liberty Dogs against a group of unhoused people who have been staging their own protest petered out in the late afternoon on Saturday.

The counter-demonstration potluck, planned in response to the rally, brought out a couple hundred people to the old Ada County Courthouse lawn. Among the unhoused community's supporters were Interfaith Sanctuary, clergymen, neighbors, teenagers, a group of young conservatives, the Red Republicans, and the Idaho Labor Party.

Members of the Idaho Liberty Dogs and their supporters did not agree to be interviewed at the event. 

"These are not true homeless people," a woman from the Liberty Dogs' rally said into a megaphone Saturday. "These people are making the city look like Portland and they are BLM fascists. We aren't paying for homeless peoples' mistakes. You want a home ... get a job."

The Liberty Dogs were rallying against the group of protesters who have erected a tent city to draw attention to issues around housing, the Black Lives Matter movement, Boise Mutual Aid, and called for the recall of Boise Mayor Lauren McLean.

The group of unhoused protesters held a potluck in response, which drew a larger crowd than the opposing event across the street. The potluck started at noon and the Liberty Dog protest began an hour later. 

Andrew Kulka, Rabbi Dan Fink and Joe Bankard, who are part of a group of interfaith religious leaders from Interfaith Sanctuary, attended the potluck. They said they heard about the potential for violence and came down to stand in peaceful solidarity with the unhoused community.

"I think when we look back, all of our traditions tell us that we as individuals and a community are judged by how we care for those among us," said Rabbi Fink. "What we are here to do is to be a peaceful presence."

Two members of the unhoused group, Daniel and Kayla Lovell, said they both have mental health issues and don't get enough from social security to get through.

"We've been in our van about a year," Kayla said. "I'm not gonna lie, I get suicidal and want to just lock myself in the van. I've lost my home, my mom, my grandma and it's like living in misery. What I'd like to see is more family shelters, so we can be together."

The Idaho Labor Party's spokesperson Austin Ray said when his organization heard about the counter-protest they decided to come down.

"We're here in defense of Idaho's unhoused population, because Boise renters today are Idaho's homeless tomorrow," Ray said. 

After the Liberty Dogs assembled at 1 p.m., the group of about 70 people walked across the street to the potluck, and both sides yelled and antagonized each other for several hours. No violence occurred, and by around 4 p.m., both crowds had gotten considerably smaller and less vocal. Boise Police Detective Mike Miraglia said the department hadn't anticipated any violence.

"Our goal is just to keep the peace and support everyone's First Amendment rights," said Miraglia. "There's always a potential for something happening but generally people are smart about it. We want to keep it from escalating and let both sides express their right of free speech."

This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press, read more on IdahoPress.com.

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