MERIDIAN — Protesters on Tuesday targeted the home of the Meridian police officer who arrested a woman for refusing to leave a closed city playground during a planned protest.
Dozens of people, including anti-government activist Ammon Bundy of Emmett, gathered on a sidewalk outside the home of the officer, where they shouted at Meridian police officers and delivered a list of grievances, according to a video shared on social media.
The Idaho Press is not sharing the link to the video, which shows the officer’s house, and is not publishing the officer’s name or photos, to protect their privacy amid possible threats to their safety.
Earlier on Tuesday, Sara Brady, 40, was arrested by Meridian police Tuesday after attending a planned protest at a park playground closed due to concerns about the new coronavirus. According to a video shared on social media, after Meridian police officers told the protesters to leave the playground area and continue their protest in areas of the park that remained open, Brady turned her back to an officer, offered her hands to be handcuffed, and asked the officer to arrest her.
Following the arrest, the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a libertarian advocacy group, posted on social media the name and photos of the officer who the post said “authorized the arrest” of Brady.
“Let the Meridian Police Department know how you feel,” the Facebook post said.
The Idaho Freedom Foundation organized a protest at Meridian City Hall on Tuesday evening, where about 100 people showed up, KTVB reported. But the organization denies encouraging a protest at the police officer’s house.
Wayne Hoffman, president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, said in a Facebook video on Thursday that he didn’t know about the social media post, and “the person who put it up, I guess realized that that wasn’t the best idea” because the post was deleted.
The post was not “an encouragement to do anything, except let the Meridian Police Department know how you feel,” Hoffman said, denying that the Idaho Freedom Foundation was encouraging protesters to target the police officer. “To the degree that people have that impression, I apologize because that’s not the intention,” he said. “Of course, we never said that people should do that.”
If you want to protest a government official, “go to the government official’s place of work,” Hoffman said.
“Don’t go to people’s houses,” he said. “I don’t want people at my house.”
Bundy, on the other hand, said during a meeting last month that a “bad actor,” or someone who he believes infringes on peoples’ rights, could be targeted for protests at their homes. During the meeting, Bundy pledged to provide legal, political and physical defense to people who are pressured by the “authorities” or anybody else to comply with the order.
“We need to find out who’s the bad actor here,” Bundy said. “We need to go to his house and act in that way.”
Bundy previously told the Idaho Press in an phone interview that he’s not opposed to weapons being used in a situation where “physical defense” is required.
“When someone’s rights are being violated for whatever reason … then thousands of people come and surround that person and bring a tremendous, a lot of attention and bring accountability to the bad actors,” he said. “The First Amendment is secured by the Second Amendment.”
The protesters Tuesday did not appear to have weapons.
Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, in a Facebook video on Tuesday told Idahoans to “beware” the “snake oil salesmen and political opportunists,” leading the protests against Gov. Brad Little’s stay-home order.
“Those of you that are worried about your jobs, your future, your constitutional rights under the stay-at-home order, there’s a group of people you need to be a whole lot more afraid of than Brad Little,” Chaney said. “Those are people who are manipulating you … by telling you that they’re concerned about your liberty, by staging (an) arrest.”
Brady “wanted to be arrested,” Chaney said. “That’s why she left the house that day. What a staged production.”
Chaney said Bundy is “bringing all kinds of additional threat and risk to this police officer and his family.”
“Go home, Ammon,” he said. “This is absolutely unacceptable.”
But Chaney said he is most upset with Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who last week sent a three-page letter to Little, urging him to declare all businesses in Idaho “essential,” allow all to open for business as soon as his current stay-home order expires April 30, and offer immediate, emergency tax breaks to boost the economy. She is also the keynote speaker lined up for a livestreamed event in Rexburg on Saturday calling for businesses to reopen.
Chaney said McGeachin “could be quelling this ridiculous behavior.”
“She could be tamping this down, but instead she’s feeding the fire,” he said.
In an email statement provided to the Idaho Press, McGeachin said the following:
“Rep. Chaney is not telling the truth. While I have consistently opposed the shutdown of Idaho businesses past April 30, 2020, I have never advocated for civil disobedience in protest of the Governor’s order. I have not participated in any of the protests against the Governor’s order. Rep. Chaney should retract his remarks.”