In the video, a man in a black cowboy hat and jacket stands on the sidewalk, offering his commentary on the arrest of Sara Brady, a Meridian woman who was arrested April 21 for trespassing after staging a protest at Kleiner Park, where some facilities had been closed due to COVID-19 concerns.
"It was a woman at a park with her children, and she was arrested," the man said. "Completely inappropriate—that's just the way it is. What will happen is, they'll grind her in the system that's called 'justice,' I guess, until they spit her out, until she's given up or you guys get your say. That's the way I see it, and I've been there."
Indeed, he has. The man in the video is Ammon Bundy, whose previous encounters with law enforcement include the standoff at his father's ranch in 2014 and another standoff at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon, where he played a central role. The aforementioned video was shot from the sidewalk in front of the home of one of the officers involved in Brady's arrest, where dozens of people staged a protest the evening of the incident.
In a statement released on Facebook, the Meridian Police Employee Association expressed its frustration with both Brady and Bundy's protests, and shock at the intrusion into the private life of a police officer.
"When you release the home addresses of officers and elected officials so you can go to their house in an attempt to intimidate them and terrorize their families you have stepped over the line," the statement reads.
It remains unclear how the protesters actually obtained the home address of a police officer involved in Brady's arrest, though the incident marks a shift toward the personal for some opponents of state and local directives to partially close economies and some public facilities, and engage in public health best practices during a global pandemic.
Such opposition has intensified since April 12, when Bundy led an Easter Sunday event that was as much a religious service as a statement about Gov. Brad Little's stay home order. Five days later, on April 17, more than 1,000 people stood shoulder to shoulder at the steps of the Idaho Statehouse to call on Little to lift his order and reopen the economy—an event this paper has characterized as a profoundly irresponsible threat to public health.
Another rally is set to take place in Rexburg on Saturday, April 25, and will feature Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who has criticized Little's order as a "one-size-fits-all definition of 'essential businesses'" that unfairly privileges some enterprises during the shutdown, and warned of the "potential of a constitutional showdown between some of the people of Idaho and [Little's] administration," according to documents obtained by the Idaho Press.
Local and national public health and economic experts have warned that prematurely reopening the economy and lifting recommendations that people regularly wash their hands, stay home from work if they feel ill, wear face masks where appropriate and practice social distancing could result in a spike in cases of COVID-19, potentially straining hospital capacity, causing death, prolonging the pandemic and causing substantial economic damage.
Bundy's appearance at the home of a police officer wasn't the only action that took place as a result of Brady's arrest: Another, in part organized by the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which also assisted in arranging the April 17 protest, temporarily blocked Meridian Road in front of Meridian City Hall on April 21. In fact, during her arrest, Brady called on her fellow protesters to reach out to IFF.
Though Bundy and the IFF have some links—they share a critique of the constitutional merits of Little's order—IFF President Wayne Hoffman took to Facebook on April 22 to say that while IFF "supports those who peaceably assemble to protest Idaho's senseless stay-home order...," "we do not condone or endorse actions against law enforcement officials at their homes, such as the one last night."
As opposition to state and local responses to the pandemic has shown its face, so have differences in styles, tactics and rationales between some of its leading figures. Originally slated to appear at the protest in Rexburg, Hoffman's name has been removed from the speaker list, and IFF has removed that event from its own list of ways to protest the governor's order. Speaking with the Idaho Press, Dan Roberts, who has organized the rally, said while he respects the April 17 protest, the one in Rexburg will have a different flavor.
"We have a little different demographic over here," he told IP's Betsy Russell. "We just wanted to do things a little bit differently, and we have a different message."