BOISE — One person was arrested Tuesday tied to the protests against Central District Health’s proposed public health order, and police have warrants to arrest three others who protested outside of health board member Diana Lachiondo’s house.
“I chose to put myself out there, but my kids don’t deserve this,” Lachiondo said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Lachiondo was not home when protesters gathered there. She rushed home after getting a distressed call from her son.
“As a mom, when your kid is calling you and they’re scared … I just felt really helpless,” she said. “They’re fine, everybody’s fine, but when there’s a guy with a gun yelling outside your house, it’s hard to feel safe.”
Lachiondo, a fourth-generation Idahoan, said getting messages from people saying “you don’t know Idaho,” was a frustrating experience.
“We’ve always had to rely on each other, because no one else was coming to save us,” she said, adding that if people had just voluntarily done what the district was asking, an order like the one being contemplated on Tuesday night wouldn’t even be necessary. The order would largely align with the state’s Stage 2 order, with some added restrictions such as a mask mandate for all four of the health district’s counties and limited capacity for restaurants.
Video footage of the protest outside Lachiondo’s home on YouTube showed at least three protesters outside the commissioner’s home with air horns and a siren. The person filming the video refers to her as “Lockdown Lachiondo,” and the same phrase is scrawled in sidewalk chalk at the bottom of the home’s driveway. Protesters also set off a car horn.
“Sorry it’s a little loud, but I got to do what I got to do,” says the woman filming the video. “We need Diana’s neighbors to know.”
At one point the woman filming the video begins to pound on a plastic bucket with a metal rod while yelling Lachiondo’s name.
“You guys, sometimes I admit I feel a little bit aggressive and pissed off,” the woman yells, while hitting the bucket. “I don’t know, there’s just something about having my constitutional rights stolen that does that to me. I go a little nutty.”
WORKING WITH CDH
An estimated 300 to 400 people protested outside Central District Health’s Boise office during Tuesday’s health board meeting, and other groups of protesters went to at least two other board members’ or district officials’ houses, according to police. Chief Ryan Lee said he believes some of the protesters came from outside of CDH’s jurisdiction of Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties.
Central District Health allowed protesters outside its main headquarters to set up a podium and a speaker. It was a decision Lee said the police department would not have made.
“I would say that it was not a good idea for us, from a public safety standpoint, and we had asked them not to do that,” Lee said. “Central District Health was not willing to have that podium and that microphone and speaker system removed. We didn’t have the authority to do it ourselves because that was their property and they were the people in control.”
One person was arrested during the protest. Officers charged Yvonne St. Cyr, 53, with misdemeanor trespassing. Police say St. Cyr gained entrance to the district office, and a district representative placed her under citizen’s arrest.
On the other side of the debate, hundreds of people in support of the public health order set up homemade signs in the parking lot of the district office Tuesday. On Wednesday, an online petition by a newly formed coalition called The 97% gained more than 1,600 signatures.
“Thousands of Idahoans were silenced yesterday when a small group of anti-government activists derailed the democratic process, intimidated public servants at their homes, and endangered the public with a large, unmasked gathering outside a public health district,” according to a press release from coalition representative Nathaniel Hoffman.
The petition calls for “duly-elected government continue to function despite intimidation and that leaders of our state take immediate action to curtail this anti-democratic threat.”
Moving forward, Lee said he hoped the police department could work more closely with the health district to ensure safer meetings. He also said the department might partner with other police agencies to ensure the adequate number of officers are present.
“CDH and its Board of Health are working to determine a safe and productive path forward, and will be working on a plan for future Board of Health meetings,” the health district wrote in a statement to the Idaho Press. “… CDH staff and Board appreciate the words of concern they have received following last night’s meeting. We are especially grateful for the support and partnership of Boise Police in ensuring that those in attendance, our team members, and Board of Health members remained safe during all stages of the evening.”
The Boise Police Department faced a difficult Tuesday night. While police knew the protest at the health district’s headquarters would take place, they didn’t anticipate the crowd would be as large as it was. In addition to that, Lee said, police still had to patrol the city as they normally would.
A serious crash Tuesday afternoon also drew a large police response, which stretched the department further.
“Then as the meeting continued we found out that there was protest activity occurring at individual board members’ homes causing alarm,” Lee said. “The police department was unaware if we were dealing with three protesters or 30 protesters, so we were having to dispatch significant police resources, supervisors and multiple cars to each one of those locations, and that continued to draw resources. So we’ve got a major crash, a significant protest scene to manage, patrol operations at all of these other operations that we are continuing to launch resources at.”
COMMISSION WEIGHS IN
Ada County Commissioner-elect Ryan Davidson criticized the health board over the weekend. Davidson, who defeated Lachiondo in November’s election, spoke to a crowd outside of the Idaho Capitol building, according to a video posted to YouTube on Dec. 5.
“We’re fighting the war of the people who want to keep you locked up in your home on Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Davidson told the assembled crowd, many of whom were carrying “TRUMP 2020” flags.
“I’ve been sitting and watching the Central District Health board ratcheting up their COVID restrictions on the people of Ada County,” Davidson said, telling the people in the crowd they “shouldn’t comply” with the CDH orders and that the order was just trying to “put a damper on everyone’s Christmas.”
Davidson also suggested when he and newly elected Commissioner Rod Beck took office in January, they would take steps to remove Dr. Ted Epperly, the physician representative from Ada County. Epperly is one of the board members who had protesters outside his house.
“We’re going to ask for community members who want to serve, and will look for a physician to be a new representative on the board,” Davidson said, telling the crowd he was looking for applications from “liberty loving physicians … liberty loving patriots” to serve on the board.
Beck, however, said any discussion of replacing other members on the board was, “a little too premature.”
“We will be looking at all boards and commissions, and we will obviously be looking at the Central District Health board,” Beck said on Wednesday, noting he would be taking a “more cautious approach.”
Beck also said while all the video he saw of the protests at CDH’s building were peaceful, he did not agree with the actions taken by other protesters in going to board members’ homes.
“I think it is inappropriate to go to a board member’s house. … They need to leave their private lives alone. They have every right to show up at Central District Health, but it crosses a boundary when they cross to private people’s homes,” Beck said.
Ada County Commissioners Patrick Malloy, R, and Kendra Kenyon, D, weighed in on Tuesday’s protests as well in a statement.
“I was shocked and saddened to hear that for the second time this month community members angry about decisions made by elected officials would take their protests to those officials’ homes,” Malloy said. “While I am a Constitutionalist and a conservative, I find it outrageous that citizens would think it appropriate to protest outside the private residence of any elected official. This same group of protestors would find it a violation of their rights if a government agency rallied outside of their home, but find nothing wrong with causing fear and anxiety for the children and other family members of elected officials.”
He added that the protesters’ extreme actions were alienating those who might agree with their arguments.
Kenyon called it a “sad day in our community” when public servants and their children were harassed at their homes.
“I have hope that the good people in our community will continue to band together, and focus on the positive,” she said. “We live in a beautiful community that condemns bullying and intimidation, and we stand together against this abhorrent behavior.”