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Jan 24, 22

Community Stands in Solidarity with Encampment Demanding End to Police Harassment and Access to Housing

Report on ongoing protest encampment at the Idaho state capitol in Boise demanding an end to police harassment of the houseless and access to housing and beyond.

With housing costs skyrocketing, temperatures plummeting, and cops relentlessly harassing and ticketing people experiencing houselessness, folks sleeping on the streets in so-called Boise, Idaho have found themselves scrambling for survival. Within the last month, as temperatures dropped as low as 7 degrees overnight, Boise Mutual Aid (BMA) joined the effort to assist folks with finding a building for people to sleep in overnight. A business downtown offered their building for a week (the coldest week of the year, so far) and community came together to make the space an autonomous community overnight warming space. Decisions were made as a collective and folks forged community agreements to keep each other safe and taken care of. Boise Mutual Aid facilitated asking for, receiving, and distributing donations which poured in nonstop. It was, as one would imagine, not easy. But the first community agreements folks decided on was to utilize mediation and conflict resolution instead of relying on the cops during times of conflict. Many conflicts arose but the community stayed true to their commitment to keep each other safe from the police, the cops were never called, and conflicts were handled and resolved within the community. Then the week was up and folks were back where they started, scrambling for safety in the cold of the streets.

However, something shifted during that time, folks experienced the dignity of being able to decide collectively and independently their fate and step into the autonomy of taking care of themselves and their community, and hope was born. That hope and experienced dignity created a fire, folks knew they deserved better, and decided to start a protest. Folks set up a protest city, setting up tents in the lawn across from the capitol building in downtown Boise. They had everything they needed set up to host their 24/7 protest city. It wasn’t up for even 5 hours before police came and told folks they had to leave the area or risk arrest/ticketing/removal of belongings. Folks decided to take it down and were promised hotel vouchers from the city/local shelters if they left the space. Some folks were provided those vouchers, most weren’t.

Folks spent another week on the streets, organizing and preparing for attempt #2, but this time in a different space. Folks chose a lawn that is state, rather than city, property. This specific land was where Occupy Boise existed 10 years ago and an injunction ordered during Occupy states that tents are allowed there as 24/7 protest, but does not indicate that folks can sleep in the space. On January 16th, 2022 folks set up their new protest city in the space at Jefferson and 6th, in front of the old Ada County Courthouse, and that’s where it remains today. It didn’t take long before capitol mall security began doing rounds and giving out orders, but didn’t follow with any consequence. Boise Mutual Aid was asked to stand in as support and has been supporting within their capacity since folks first started protesting. During mutual aid Monday, which was moved from its regular spot to the protest city this week, 5 Idaho State Police showed up and brought a list of demands for the space (see photo here), snooped around taking photos and videos of the space and people’s belongings, and stomped off reporting that they would return in 3 hours and give out citations if demands weren’t met. Their primary focus was that folks aren’t allowed to have things that make for comfortable camping, as they’re not allowed to sleep in the space and that they are seeing how the grass is being trampled and the beauty of the lawn must be maintained. Folks had a community meeting and decided to do the best they could to clean up the area and make it look as good as possible to avoid further police harassment. The cops never returned that night.

The following day more state police returned and took two tall patio heaters that the community donated, tarps and other small belongings. Since then the Idaho Liberty Dogs (a local fash group that has connections with local police) has been threatening to “bulldoze” the site themselves. Some fash have visited the site since their threats began (likely connected to ILD) and harassed folks sleeping outside. Local proud boys have also visited, though they have only filmed and left at the time of this writing.

State police returned and reported they would be coming to remove all belongings on the 23rd of January, so folks decided to have a party so that the greater community could be present to deter police presence; BMA was asked to assist and is doing so. As the night drew on, a heavy community support showed and law enforcement didn’t. The community is hoping they’ll stay away for good but will continue to organize to prevent interruption to their space.

Like any form of resistance to state harassment, oppression, and repression the whole ordeal has been relentlessly exhausting. However, ongoing community support is a refreshing reminder that just as easily as we’ve fallen into the trap of believing that we have to face this dystopian, capitalistic nightmare by ourselves – we can step out and away from that and into the loving and reliable warmth of community. Exploring, figuring out, and actualizing horizontal structures of resource sharing and care for each other is imminently important before things become further strained and resources more scarce. Living into that is as rewarding as it is trying.

If you have navigated similar waters and have skills to share, resources to share, or are able to spread the word and increase visibility to reduce police harassment and repression please reach out to Boise Mutual Aid (IG @Boisemutualaid or email [email protected]).

With love and solidarity!

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