BOISE, Idaho — This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press.
Workers removed several tents from the site of a tent city protest on the old Ada County Courthouse lawn on Friday.
The incident took place a few days after Gov. Brad Little and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden filed a lawsuit to end the protest.
“Idaho will not tolerate public encampments and destruction of public property,” Little said in a statement issued Tuesday. “Idaho is not San Francisco, Portland, or Seattle, where public officials have engaged in failed experiments to permit and encourage public camping disguised as protests.”
A group of Boise’s unhoused population, Operation Hope Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere, has been protesting at the lawn since January, asking for more low-barrier shelters and affordable low-income housing.
Last summer, a housing analysis from the city of Boise found a “deep and unrelenting” need for affordable housing. Around two-thirds of renters and over a third of homeowners cannot afford the housing in the market, the analysis found.
“The state is claiming that there's a public health crisis, but I think it's pretty clear that the real public health crisis is the housing crisis,” said John Daniels, a supporter of the unhoused population’s protest who was at the courthouse lawn.
On Friday afternoon, a third-party company dressed in gas masks and hazmat suits threw trash bags into a portable dumpster trailer. People stood along the sidewalk watching, occasionally conversing and arguing with Idaho State Police officers.
One worker rolled a sign up and put it into a trash bag, along with tent poles, a blue rag and a yellow glove. A striped shirt and a cardboard protest sign were left on the ground.
“Folks deserve a place to sleep without harassment,” read the sign, written in black letters.
Nine officers stood around the grassy area, some with their arms crossed, watching as the black garbage bags piled up on the sidewalk.
The police were there to provide security to the company, said Robert Heise, a specialist with ISP who is responsible for the Capitol mall complex.
“The Idaho State Police were on site providing safety and security services. No enforcement activity was taken," ISP said in a statement.
Only six tents were left by the time the cleaning crew was done. It is unclear why those were the only tents left. Idaho State Police have previously performed “wellness checks," issued citations, made arrests and confiscated items from the protestors.
“We begged for (the six tents) to stay,” said Chyann Hummer, who is a member of the unhoused community. “In a blunt way to say it, it's a cluster-(expletive) of emotions.”
Hummer came back to the protest to get something to eat when she saw people’s belongings being thrown away.
“They’ve already taken our heaters, and they tried to take my laptop, because they called this ‘camping,'" she said.
“We are trying to get the point across that people who are homeless need a home. Housing is a key right and what they're doing is they're taking that human right away,” Hummer said.
The protesting group released a list of demands they want the state and government to adhere to in order to benefit those without homes.
The demands include an immediate end to ticketing by police, immediate indoor space that can be used by the unhoused like foreclosed or abandoned structures, unhoused representation on the Boise City Council, five acres of land that would be free of surveillance and police presence, and $3 million to finance and build “an appropriate infrastructure."
This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press, read more on IdahoPress.com.
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