With Occupy encampments across the country being shut down, sometimes through forceful means, protesters at the Occupy Boise encampment are moving into their second month, with little sign of abatement. But the question arises: Just how long can Occupy Boise go on?
“We certainly have seen increased police presence,” said Occupier Shavone Hasse. “Mostly drive-by’s, cops spotlighting tents. Bike cops have apparently added this to their route, and we have had some cops come in with specific questions that our legal observers have dealt with.”
Hasse noted that law enforcement, overall, had been amiable, but individual police officers had “not always acted in the best of faith toward" the campers.
To maintain good relations with city and state officials, Occupiers said they have put forward their best effort to stay within the letter of the law.
“Our rights are guaranteed under the federal Constitution,” said Dean Gunderson, a member of the legal working group and a self-proclaimed expert in urban and regional planning and development. “The Idaho constitution goes much further. The City of Boise had adopted prohibitions on overnight camping in municipal parks. We take the position that a city municipal ordinance doesn’t have the ability to mitigate or override a constitutional right. The State of Idaho doesn’t have any policies to prohibit overnight camping. So we knew that we could come down to this location and set up an encampment because we weren’t violating any low-level policy or ordinance, and, in fact, we had the protection of the Constitution.”
The Boise Police Department seems to agree.
“Right now, [the encampment] doesn’t appear to violate any laws," said Lynn Hightower, Boise Police communications director. “They’re on state property, but it doesn’t appear to be in violation of Boise City or state ordinance. I think the Occupiers have done their homework and kudos to them for that.”
She added: “In Idaho, any law that the City of Boise makes can’t trump state law. State law is dominant.”
Overseeing the property at the old Ada County Courthouse, the location of the encampment, is the duty of the Department of Administration. If an eviction were to occur, the call would come from the department to the Idaho State Police, who have jurisdiction over the Capitol Mall.
“You have a protest group camping out on state land in the middle of the city,” said Lt. Sheldon Kelley with the Idaho State Police. “They’re obviously a concern, but we’re not going to do anything unless the Department of Administration informs us that they’re breaking some sort of rule.”
As long as the protesters continue abiding by the law, the Department of Administration won't be taking action against them.
“We have had some questions about a time frame, and there isn’t a time frame at this point,” said Teresa Luna with the Department of Administration. “I don’t want to imply that we’re having those conversations. I guess my comment is that there is no timeline. Yeah, there’s nothing happening of any note.”
Although the Occupiers aren’t breaking any city or state ordinances, Boise Police Department, Idaho State Police and the Department of Administration said they have all taken complaints on the cluttered look of the encampment.
“We have a really beautiful building across the street over at the Capitol,” said Gunderson. “One might argue that the relationship between what it looks like on the outside and what it looks like on the inside, in terms of what goes on in there, has an inverse relationship. And if that’s the case, we have an inverse relationship here, too. So we may be a little untidy in the way that we physically look, but we have this beautiful working relationship among the different people within the encampment and with the Occupy movement. And I think we’d like to see the things that go on inside the Capitol be as beautiful as what’s on the outside.”