Tuesday, July 10, 2012

ACLU Idaho Challenges New Protest Rules, But State Says Many of the Rules Haven't Changed

Posted By on Tue, Jul 10, 2012 at 9:53 AM

The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho is suing the state over new guidelines on how the steps of the Capitol and the grounds surrounding the Statehouse can be used.

“Even two people—whether ordinary citizens or professional lobbyists—could be subject to permitting requirements and citation if they gather on the Statehouse steps to make their voices heard,” said Ritchie Eppink, legal director of the ACLU of Idaho and co-counsel to Occupy Boise.

But a spokesman for the Idaho Department of Administration, which oversees the use of the steps and the grounds, told Citydesk that the ACLU doesn't have it exactly right. While individuals or groups can file for a permit, five business days before an event to secure the use of the steps, it's not necessary in many cases.

"Anybody can have an event on the steps without a permit," said Rick Johnston, facility services manager with the Department of Administration. "But they could possibly be bumped by someone else who applied for a permit. The permit gives someone the first right to the steps."

Johnston said an elected official would also have priority for use of the steps.

As an example, Citydesk asked about the June 28 rally on the Capitol steps held by the Boise Tea Party, protesting that day's U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold most of the Affordable Care Act.

"Tea Party Boise faxed over a statement of responsibility to use the day before, but no, they didn't have a permit," said Johnston. "Had there been someone else with a permit, they would have been asked to leave. But there was no permit for anyone else."

Johnston said the permit is considered as a formal placeholder for organizations to secure the space.

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