Police arrest 4 at homeless protest outside Boise statehouse

February 5, 2022 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho State Police arrested four people at a protest that’s been going on for weeks at the Idaho Capitol Mall to draw attention to the lack of affordable housing and other challenges facing the homeless in Boise.

People experiencing homelessness have been staying in the protest encampment with help from volunteers, the Idaho Statesman reported Saturday. Idaho State Police arrested three people, including one of the protest organizers, on outstanding drug-related warrants and a fourth for a probation or parole violation.

Authorities also seized possessions and issued eight warnings, the newspaper said. Items seized included sleeping bags, propane tanks, pillows and drug paraphernalia.

Idaho authorities maintain that camping is not allowed at the site because it’s state property. Idaho Legal Aid has pushed back and said the Idaho State Police are violating protesters’ rights.

A court ruling after the Occupy Boise movement in 2011 concluded that people are allowed to demonstrate in tents but cannot camp there. A ruling in 2019 found that people experiencing homelessness cannot be cited or arrested for sleeping outdoors on public property if there isn’t available shelter space.

Police said they checked to see if shelter beds were available before searching the demonstration site Friday and were told there were available beds.

Interfaith Sanctuary Executive Director Jodi Peterson-Stigers told the Statesman by phone that the shelter had no open beds and is operating over capacity under COVID-19 protocols.

“Every night we have to decide, is it worse to get omicron or is it worse to freeze to death?” Peterson-Stigers said.

The shelter wants to expand and ran out of space for the first time in January. It’s now using a heated tent for men and a portable classroom to shelter women, she said.