On June 23, a group of approximately 50 people and a handful of members of the Idaho House of Representatives convened at the Idaho State Capitol. They were trying to reach a quorum to call a special legislative session regarding Gov. Brad Little’s emergency orders regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We want to open up the dialogue with the governor,” said Republican Rep. Dorothy Moon (R-Stanley). “We were never involved with the original closure. In District 8, my businesses are closing, people are losing their jobs and a lot of people have lost all hope, and I’m going to represent them to the best of my ability.”
Backed by the Idaho Freedom Foundation and Ammon Bundy, who has been involved in two standoffs with federal law enforcement officials, the group of legislators present included Reps. Moon, Christy Zito (R-Hammett), Heather Scott (R-Blanchard) and Priscilla Giddings (R-White Bird), all of whom said they were there to overturn Little’s emergency order in a special legislative session.
In a memo, the Idaho State Senate majority leaders wrote they are drafting a package to present at the regular session to address people's concerns regarding government overreach in regards to the coronavirus. The majority also called the move to ask for a special session illegal and ill-advised.
“There is no way to sugarcoat the aggressive actions of these groups other than to assume they want to undermine the legitimate Idaho Legislature and Government of the State of Idaho,” they wrote. “We cannot stand by and let this happen.”
Although the move to create a special session did not bear fruit, at the rally, many people voiced concerns about the government overstepping its reach, including Bundy, who said he and his supporters want legislators to convene to discuss the governor's actions.
“It looks like we will have enough for a quorum in the near future,” said Bundy. “There’s no room for using the force of law: The government can give recommendations, but to use the force of law on free people is completely inappropriate. We’re free and we should act like it.”
Many people echoed Bundy’s statements, with many saying they were concerned with government overreach during the pandemic. Andrea Wilson drove from central Idaho to Boise to protest what she called "tyranny" and out of concern for her grandchildren.
“This is a historical moment and there’s a division happening and people will either stand with the constitution or join the new world order,” she said.
Helen Lynn said it was not a protest but a gathering of support to the legislators working to end the state of emergency code.
“It’s an egregious overreach by the government. For example, using contact trackers to basically hunt down and separate families, basically the whole lockdown is unconstitutional," she said.
Throughout the proceedings, Billy Martinez stood out as a lone counter-protester, bullhorn in hand, calling the assembled crowd "snowflakes" and "cowards," and urged passersby to put on face masks.
“I’ve been alone by myself protesting every time these people come,” said Martinez. “You are selfish people with nothing better to do. It must be so terrible to have to think about someone other than yourself."
Martinez wouldn’t quit shouting his opinions, from a respectable distance, even as the four legislators tried to make a statement.
“Legislators signed the proclamation and they are sending it out and we will get this to the governor,” said Zito. “It’s our hope the governor will call a session and I would encourage people to contact the executive branch. This is a peaceful movement, be respectful and have manners.”