BOISE, Idaho — Idaho State Police troopers who visited the site of a protest near the state capitol Friday morning intend to work with the people at the site, direct them to services, and, if necessary, take enforcement action to keep state property safe and maintained, ISP said Friday afternoon.
Troopers arrested four people on outstanding warrants or probation violations, and issued warning citations to eight others found to be in violation of the state law that prohibits camping on the Capitol Mall, which includes several buildings around the statehouse as well as the statehouse itself.
In a news release, ISP said before making the arrests, troopers went to West Jefferson Street between North 5th and 6th streets, where multiple tents have been set up for the past few weeks. That location, formerly the Ada County Courthouse, is now state property and subject to state rules for Capitol Mall use. Under a federal court order issued in 2013, symbolic tents are allowed, but camping is not.
A group protesting what they say is a lack of affordable housing and a lack of adequate emergency shelter space set up the tents in early January. ISP said before going to the site on Friday morning, troopers confirmed there were beds available at the local shelters. ISP said the purpose of the troopers' visit was to check for prohibited items and to check on the welfare of the people at the site.
Chad Klein, who lives near the site, called the police presence excessive, and "straight-up harassment."
"They were just walking around the tents, they were opening stuff, and then they started pulling their sleeping bags out and loading them up in trucks. They had a trailer here they were throwing stuff in," Klein said.
Friday morning, ISP said, troopers found and seized alcohol and drug paraphernalia - including a pipe and a bag of syringes - as well as sleeping bags, pillows and propane tanks, referred to as "indicia of camping."
Some people at the site voluntarily removed tents and other items. Troopers removed unclaimed items that were prohibited on state grounds, and left information on how those wishing to claim ownership can recover their items. ISP said illegal items such as drug paraphernalia will not be returned.
Troopers removing the items could see signs of damage to grass and landscaping, and found "a large amount of garbage, food waste, feces and cups of what appeared to be urine," ISP said.
ISP said troopers asked someone coming out of one of the tents if they needed medical or social services, but that person declined the help, as did other people when troopers asked them if they needed shelter or other services.
Eight people suspected of violating the Idaho state law against camping on the Capitol Mall were given warning citations.
Four people were arrested and taken to the Ada County Jail on what ISP said were outstanding warrants for failing to appear in court on previous drug or disorderly conduct charges.
One Boise man who was taken to jail has been turned over to the custody of Probation and Parole. The other three people arrested were 39-year-old Timothy Christensen, 51-year-old Yolanda Pullman, and 19-year-old Tyler Berg. All three are being held on misdemeanor failure-to-appear warrants.
Idaho State Police also issued the following statement: "It is the intent of Troopers to continue to work with those on-site, to direct anyone in need of health or social services to the appropriate service providers, and to continue to educate and take enforcement action as necessary to keep the government-owned property maintained and safe."
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