Editor's note: This editorial has been updated: The Idaho Freedom Foundation Facebook post included the police officer's name and photos but not the address.
It’s beyond discouraging to see people show up to a police officer’s home in Meridian to protest his arrest of an activist violating a playground closure. Others are applauding the protest, which included a cameo from Ammon Bundy, and are praising people for standing up for their rights.
Standing up for their rights is not what’s happening here. The city’s closure of the playground is not unlawful, nor is the statewide stay-home order. Additionally, the woman at the park protest put her hands behind her back and told the officer to arrest her. As she was handcuffed, she yelled for someone to call the Idaho Freedom Foundation.
We’re disgusted that someone within the Idaho Freedom Foundation found it appropriate to later post the arresting officer’s name and pictures to the foundation’s Facebook page, making him a target.
“I didn’t know about that,” the foundation’s executive director, Wayne Hoffman, said in a video he posted Thursday morning. “It was up for about an hour and then taken down. The person who put it up I guess realized that that wasn’t the best idea.”
“Wasn’t the best idea”? We hope to see the foundation take stronger action than that in response to their staff member’s incredibly poor and reckless judgment. (It’s also despicable that people are posting online the address of the woman who was arrested, leading her family to ask the Meridian Police Department for extra patrol of the area, which it provided, according to the department’s Facebook page.)
People who are standing up for their constitutional rights need to be reminded that the stay-home order and cities’ closures of playgrounds are not violating the law. The authority for states, health districts and cities to issue temporary emergency orders is provided by the U.S. Constitution, Idaho’s code and constitution and case law, according to an analysis by Idaho Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane.
“This area of law has been well settled for approximately 200 years if not longer,” Kane wrote.
State Rep. Greg Chaney, a Republican from Caldwell, also is fed up with not only what he calls the staged arrest in the Meridian park Tuesday, but with others “who are using a fake view of your liberties to manipulate and leverage you into their own personal gain,” he said in an online video this week.
“Even 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. “And those are people who are manipulating you, manipulating you by telling you they’re concerned about your liberty. Manipulating you by staging arrests.”
During Gov. Brad Little’s press conference Thursday, when asked about his thoughts on the Meridian playground arrest and subsequent protests at the police officer’s home, Little gave a one-word response: “Disgusting.”
As Little pointed out, the vast majority of Idahoans are respecting the order. These displays, though they make a lot of noise online, don’t represent the broader mindset of Idahoans.
Chaney also expressed disappointment with Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, which we echo.
McGeachin, an Idaho Falls business owner, is the planned keynote speaker for a rally in Rexburg Saturday calling for the reopening of all businesses. (The rally originally involved Hoffman, who was removed from the lineup of speakers because the Freedom Foundation’s “Disobey Idaho” message wasn’t what rally organizers were going for. The event also shifted from an in-person demonstration to a livestreamed event with a car parade.)
Additionally, McGeachin altered her Facebook profile to include a ribbon declaring, “#I AM ESSENTIAL — DON’T TREAD ON ME,” with an image of a coiled snake recognizable from the Gadsden flag.
“She’s in a leadership position and she could be quelling this sort of absolutely ridiculous behavior,” Chaney said in his video. “But instead she’s feeding the fire. … If you don’t agree with the order, fine. But you don’t encourage people to do things that health professionals are telling them that they shouldn’t.”
We understand the economic pain and the need for people to get back to work. Small business loans and unemployment benefits often get tangled up in the bureaucratic process, leaving people with anxiety about how they’ll pay rent and bills. And as the spread of the virus seems to slow, the call grows louder for the state to let people do what they need to do to support themselves and their families.
But if we all go back to business as usual too quickly, all of this sacrifice and self-isolation might be for naught if infections spike again.
Little on Thursday outlined a four-phase plan for the Idaho economy and social activities to reopen. Let’s do our part — there’s nothing silly or overstated about our efforts to prevent more people from getting sick or dying. If our kids can’t use their favorite slide for a month or two, so be it.