Filed under: Action, Analysis, Anti-fascist, Featured, Northwest, Police
Organizers in Boise, Idaho look back on a recent mobilization in the wake of the police murder of Payton Wasson and calls for a counter-protest by the far-Right group, the Idaho Liberty Dogs.
On the morning of June 24th, 2023, many of us woke up to the news of another senseless police shooting. The only information the Boise Police Department released on the shooting was that someone had fled on foot with a gun in their hand from a vehicle, failed to listen to police commands, was shot by the officer, and was in the hospital with life threatening injuries. We were all instantly suspicious of this, as you should be with any police killing, and began discussing the possibility of a rally in response to the killing.
The following Monday, more details about the murder began to surface. We learned that Payton Wasson was shot in the back of the head as he was running away and died the following Sunday. We learned that police didn’t notify his family until nine hours after the shooting, even though the department had a lot of prior history with Payton and most likely, knew who he was. Posts from his family and friends started circulating, pleading for justice and expressing the immense loss of having Payton taken from them so early in an unjustifiable killing. It was after seeing the posts from his family, that we knew we had to act.
Payton Wasson (right)
That Monday, our affinity group decided to put out a flyer for a rally on June 30th and go from there. A call-in campaign to the Mayor’s office was also organized to let them know we aren’t okay with their police force killing us. The rally flyer naturally began to grow on social media as more and more organizations and local media outlets picked it up. Organizing behind the scenes happened in a smooth and decentralized manner, as affinity groups popped up for all the different needs: security, corkers, sign and banner makers, outreach and literature, and legal observers all sprang into action. The family was contacted by a comrade and informed of the plans and they were very happy to hear people were doing something about this, but were all still in shock to do much themselves. They mainly wanted answers, since BPD failed to talk to them about what had actually happened.
As the local media buzz around the event grew, more and more local leftist organizations tried to get in on the action as reporters reached out to activist accounts to figure out “which organization” was calling the demonstration. Some media outlets claimed it was Black Lives Matter Boise and some of them said it was unclear who organized it. We consider it a success that nobody was quite able to sus out where it came from. Tragedies like this shouldn’t be an advertising opportunity for leftist organizations. BPD released a statement claiming that they were preparing to “protect the free speech of people at the rally,” which we assumed meant they were putting their riot gear on standby and setting up barricades at city hall.
One post from the Idaho Liberty Dogs, a far-Right group known for organizing harassment campaigns against activists which formed in 2020, asked people through online posts to show up with flags in support of the police. However, after a year full of failures in 2022, and some of their social media accounts being shut down, these calls to action did not receive much attention and after failing to get over a measly 10 likes, online promotion from the far-Right group ceased.
Fall Of the Liberty Dogs
It’s important that we offer some context and history when it comes to the Idaho Liberty Dogs and how they have both attacked social movements on the ground in Boise and also worked directly with law enforcement. On June 30th, 2020, Boise residents found themselves out in the streets as the George Floyd uprising exploded across the so-called United States. A poorly planned and executed rally against police violence left many first-time activists – including many youth and teens – surrounded and outnumbered by hostile counter-demonstrators at Boise City Hall, at a ratio that some suggest skewed as far as 5 to 1 in favor of the “police supporters.” Among them included swastika-tattooed neo-Nazis, white supremacist biker gangs, and at least one violent sex-offender. One-sided, violent assaults were committed with impunity, with teenagers being the prime target and frenzied middle-aged white guys being the perpetrators.
Cin Alfonso, Former Leader of the Idaho Liberty Dogs
Riding proudly atop the Nazi-fueled violence and chaos was Cin Alfonso, leader of (at that time) a newly formed far-Right, gun-carrying, militia-themed harassment group, the Idaho Liberty Dogs. Cin moves through the crowd introducing herself to her guests and thanking them for showing up, streaming to Facebook. She even pauses her Livestream at several points to hide when she’s instigating violence, only to return to the live-feed bragging about it. When Cin’s followers become alarmed at the blood on her, she tells them, laughing not to worry, because it’s not hers. The police, unsurprisingly, do nothing to stop the violence. These bloody counter-rallies in 2020 marked the beginning of a working relationship between the Idaho Liberty Dogs and both city and state police.
The Boise police would go on to work hand-in-glove with the Idaho Liberty Dogs, including in the summer of 2022, when Idaho State Police Sergeant (ISP) Troy DeBie turned in an apparent false witness statement to the Boise Police Department that could not be corroborated by the alleged victim, Idaho State Police Lieutenant Michael Kish. The later-denied witness statement was made not long after ISP officers, including DeBie, met with Idaho Liberty Dogs leader, Cin Alfonso. BPD then moved to arrest a local activist by the name of Avalon Hardy, apparently at DeBie’s request. Liberty Dogs leader Cin Alfonso later bragged about this collaboration and repression, however the case was eventually thrown out when the witness statement of ISP Sergeant DeBie did not match the state’s video evidence (provided by Idaho Liberty Dogs) or Lieutenant Kish’s claims. Currently, a lawsuit has been filed by Avalon against their “wrongful arrest and imprisonment, excessive force, malicious prosecution, fabrication and suppression of evidence and that her rights to free speech, assembly and association were violated.”
Avalon Hardy, 35, claims Idaho State Police officers wrongfully arrested and jailed her, used excessive force and fabricated evidence. https://t.co/wof8pIb1wu
— Abby Davis (@AbbyDavisKTVB) June 30, 2023
The summer 2022 case, while certainly one of the most egregious (their false claim initially drew charges that carry up to 5 years imprisonment), only represents one example of a multi-year campaign of systemic, targeted suppression, by the Idaho Liberty Dogs, against Boise activists, enabled by police. Together, they have spent years disrupting and targeting activists through a well worn pattern. Alfonso picks a target and instigates a fight and the police target anyone who responds to her aggression. This tactic has been deployed to disrupt rallies, protests, meetings, library presentations, and most disturbingly, vigils.
Initially, scared and confused citizens largely supported the Idaho Liberty Dogs and their patriot-themed bigotry and violence, giving the Dogs the space to hold far-Right rallies and events while being treated like rock-stars. They were seen as “liberators,” as white fear and panic over Black Lives Matter protesters running rampant in conservative areas hit its zenith. Since its inception, the group targeted Black activists, the unhoused community, events at the local library, and Pride. But with each new group in their crosshairs, they seemingly lost support from more and more of their base. Slowly, their numbers continued to diminish as their followers began to see through their “patriotic” veneer. This context is worth mentioning as a precursor to their eventual decline as a force on the streets.
As their generalized support evaporated, only the most extreme bigots (and police) continued to support them. They coordinated with the Proud Boys three times in 2022 (that we’re aware of) and had open and reciprocal supportive relationships with neo-Nazis and white supremacists, platforming their more subtle messaging to their “patriot” base.
Owen Kirkham, seen here commiting assault with brass knuckles, attacked protesters at a counter protest to a "pro-life" event in Boise.
He attended with the Idaho Liberty Dogs, whose leader has rioting charges. Their members work with Idaho State Police and the Lt. Governor.🧵 https://t.co/3hT58tHXpl
— Redoubt Antifascists (@RedoubtAFA) June 30, 2022
When the Idaho Liberty Dogs targeted the unhoused community in the face of protests demanding housing and an end to police harassment starting in January of 2022, many people showed up to defend a long-running protest encampment. out mobilizing the Dogs and their far-Right supporters. When the Liberty Dogs targeted Boise Pride in September 2022, only around a dozen of their supporters showed up. They were outnumbered by thousands, including over one hundred Pride defenders.
Then in December of 2022, the Dogs targeted Boise’s Winter Pride event, however only three far-Right activists heeded their call to protest; none of them Liberty Dogs. It appears that they abandoned their own calls to counter-demonstrate, in a spectacular move that is still celebrated and discussed in the community to this day.
Idaho Liberty Dogs take part in July 4th Parade in Boise. SOURCE: Twitter
After their spectacular failure, the Idaho Liberty Dogs stopped going on the offensive for about six months, emerging only to target the rally against the police murder of Payton Wasson at Boise City Hall, on June 30th, 2023, exactly 3 years after the disastrous June 2020 rally.
Were they the same ascendant Liberty Dogs that brought violence upon the community three years earlier, and continued at every possible opportunity in the years since? Were we the same activists as the young and inexperienced targets of the Dogs’ violence in 2020? A lot has changed in three years.
As the days passed leading up to the event, it began to become unclear just how many people would show up. Often, large amounts of media attention does not reflect the reality of the situation on the streets. We learned this in 2022, when the right-wing media focused on attacking Boise Pride – yet only a dozen fascists showed up to counter-protest. Regardless, we were prepared to counter them if there was an attack on the rally. This proved to be over-preparation.
A few days before the rally an affinity group called the Accountability Network released a statement calling for justice for Payton and an end to unaccountable policing of our communities, stating that they will talk about a way forward at the rally at city hall. Everything was coming together and now all that was left was to wait.
Banner Reading “Fuck Boise Police Department”
On the morning of June 30th, as everyone was doing their final preparations for the rally, the Boise Police Department announced a press conference. This is usually done to try and quell dissent by rolling out the official narrative and justification of the murder. At 12:30 PM that day Chief Winegar announced the name of the murderer, eight year BPD veteran, Officer Chance Felder. They rolled out the gamut of police buzzwords to try and justify the murder. There was “gang activity” and the suspects were wearing “gang clothing.” The suspects had “fentanyl pills” and weapons. Winegar claimed that because he had a gun in his hand as he ran he was a “concern.” He said that this was a tragedy, “for the family and everyone involved.” None of what the police said at the conference changed our plans. The family let us know that the police had still not talked to them about any of this before the press conference. They learned these details at the same time we all did, which tells us all we need to know about how much they actually care for this family.
In preparation for the rally hundreds of copies of the demands from the Accountability Network were printed off. We know for a fact that these demands will not get met and can have a negative affect on movements, at times. The demands were filled with things that we know the city will never fulfill unless the state falls entirely. This was done however to give to media outlets and rally goers, so they can spread the story even further. The demands read:
June 30th, 2023
1. We demand a process of accountability that begins, but does not end, with the naming and firing of Payton Wasson’s murderer.
2. All Payton’s hospital and funeral expenses should be covered by the police union.
3. The fact that BPD is once again hiding and spinning facts around an unjustifiable killing shows the lack of accountability is still systemic in the Boise Police Department. Chief Winegar must be fired.
4. This is all on the heels of the Mayor and Council canceling an investigation into obvious white supremacy problems at BPD before the investigators could even review the evidence they’d collected. This spoiled the public’s best chance at an outside independent review of the department and is a major failure for transparency and accountability. Mayor McLean and the Council should resign and make way for citizen leadership.
5. All materials from the Bromwich investigation should be turned over to @socialistdogmom immediately to review in the interest of public safety.
6. The city must establish a civilian police oversight board with subpoena power. 7. Launch a feasibility study on rapidly implementing municipally supported, community based restorative practices as an alternative to militarized policing.
8. Immediately begin the full transition of the BPD budget to services that actually make our communities safer: First everyone must have access to affordable housing, quality healthcare (including mental health), and meaningful living wage work.
9. The City should declare a public safety emergency and void the City’s Collective Labor Agreement with the International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 486.
10. All of us must join in solidarity to resist police violence in our communities. We must rebuild viable alternatives to policing. We must strengthen community bonds, so we can solve disputes ourselves without calling in thugs with guns and qualified immunity. We must hold leadership at all levels accountable until we are safe. The time to stop the creeping police state is now, before next time.
The first group of organizers showed up to city hall around 5 PM to see that there were undercover cops around and reporters setting up cameras at the usual spot where rallies happen. A couple of the reporters walked up to them and asked what organization they were from. One of the reporters had an armed guard with handcuffs and a thin blue line patch with him. They were promptly told to fuck off.
Pig Toy Noise Makers Handed Out to Crowd
As more people poured in, banners were set up and signs were made. Copies of the demands and little rubber pig squeaky toys were handed out. Whenever cops rolled by, people would scream, “Fuck 12!,” and you’d hear a chorus of the squeaky toys going off. It was an occasion filled with anger and joy. Music from Payton’s playlist was played in the background as we waited for more people to arrive. The first banner to be presented was a medium sized “JUSTICE FOR PAYTON” banner made with his favorite color, blue. A massive 10’x 24′ banner reading “FUCK BPD” was erected on the city hall lawn.
Around that time, the pathetic showing of six people from the Idaho Liberty Dogs arrived with their Blue Lives Matter flags across the street next to a Chase bank. They didn’t have much to say other than shouting personal attacks on people’s appearances from across the street. They got into conflicts with several different people after they rolled up. One of the businesses they were in front of came outside to ask them to leave and then a shouting match ensued between them and a few activists. So far, the only uniformed cops that showed up were about six of them hanging out with the Liberty Dogs. It seems that the police, knowing they fucked up big time, were told to stand down for this rally. They usually will harass/arrest us for much less.
Far-Right Cheerleaders for Police Murder
Once about 100 people arrived, we started the rally with some speeches from local activists and the family/friends of Payton. The first speaker reminded everyone why we were there that day and the impact of police violence on our community. The second speaker, Avalon, the same person who was falsely accused of assaulting an officer after the Idaho State Police worked directly with the Liberty Dogs, read a list of all the people killed by police in Idaho since 2020.
The next speaker was a person who was assaulted by BPD after filming them in a parking lot and being charged with obstruction. These charges were also dropped and have led to another lawsuit against BPD. The speaker gave a fiery speech about police murder/violence and the need for abolition. We all chanted “Murderers!” at the cops across the street during this speech. Next to take the mic was an ex-police officer whose son was shot in the back by officers as he was running away in 2022. He expressed the desire for a civilian police oversight board, because in his words he used to be a law enforcement officer himself so he knows “the police cannot police themselves.”
Then family and friends of Payton came up to speak. One of his friends spoke of how Payton always put a smile on your face, and even though he had a lot of problems, he did not deserve to die. Payton’s cousin came up next to speak about the loss his family is feeling and the hopes that this situation will be a conduit for change at the very least.
Banner at Rally Reading, “Justice for Payton”
The person who hosted the event and spoke first came back on and held a moment of silence for Payton. We had intentionally not released any plans publicly besides the rally, but a march was planned after this to go to the Office of Police Accountability and the spot where Payton was killed. We knew that if we released the plans for a march the police would be ready to counter it, so we kept it secret. Once the speeches were completed, the banner moved to the sidewalk and people picked up bucket drums and signs. The march was announced.
Some comrades and family of Payton stayed back at city hall as the march began. Payton’s family got sick of the fascists across the street being pieces of human garbage and harassing a grieving community so they confronted them. An argument started between Payton’s mom and one of the fascists when Payton’s brother stepped in. After a short while of them talking, the fascists requested a police escort and left with their tails between their legs. Typically, they will post a celebratory message claiming they won the confrontation (even when they clearly did not), but no post was made on their side about this event. They must not feel very good about harassing the grieving family of a son who was murdered by police, or they were just embarrassed by the encounter.
The march stayed on the sidewalk on the way to the Office of Police Accountability, which was just around the block. CrimethInc. stickers reading “Police not Welcome” and a copy of the demands were pasted to the office windows and doors. We then marched towards the spot where Payton was murdered and explained where we were and what had happened here. Once everyone realized where we were more and more people poured into the road and took over the street. Confrontations with passersby started as we tried to explain to them that the state murdered somebody here and we are protesting it. It fell on deaf ears for some while others understood and moved on. You could feel the anger increasing as more people moved into the roads and more stickers were pasted up. Chants of, “Say his name, Payton Wasson!,” echoed through the streets as everyone left the sidewalk and joined the people in the road. The corkers kept everyone safe as we took over the streets and marched from the murder site, back to city hall to allow people to disperse or continue to hang out. People were reminded that this one protest isn’t going to change anything. Only sustained action would.
Taking to the Streets for Payton
Over all we feel that this action was a success. The cops did not bother us and the fascists were thoroughly embarrassed. The family was able to speak and let some of their anger out in a public forum. We also understand that the state allowed this to happen because they want us to blow off steam and forget. We will not forgive. We will not forget.
Finally, we send solidarity and support to Payton Wasson’s family in this time. We send love and strength to Boise’s dedicated activists and justice seekers, the new and old ones that courageously confront these systems of injustice and oppression; they do it because it’s right, not because it’s easy. We honor the dreamers, activists, and fighters that came before us, and those who will inevitably replace us. From the forest defenders of Atlanta, to the water protectors, those fighting for abortion access, the Pride defenders, the abolitionists, the advocates: take heart, together we are unstoppable.
Say his name, Payton Wasson.