An Idaho House committee voted Friday to make it illegal for protestors to picket in front of someone’s home.
The so-called “targeted picketing” bill is a response to two recent Covid-related protests in the Boise area.
In one case, protesters targeted a police officer who had arrested a woman for trespassing in a closed city park. In the second, people gathered outside the home of a health district board member while the board was meeting. She rushed home to protect her children. That case is similar to a protest last July outside the home of former Spokane County Health Officer Bob Lutz.
The bill targets people who intentionally gather in front of someone’s house “with the intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person.” People arrested can be charged with a misdemeanor.
A Friday hearing featured public testimony from people such as Steven Keiser. He said the proposal is vague and takes away people’s right of free speech.
“Some police officers love it because they can come in and pretty much arrest anybody with the assumption that the intent is there based on their actions. In fact, the intent is usually there. They can’t get their voice heard if there’s not an element of annoyance involved," he said.
The bill is co-sponsored by two Boise-area legislators, Democrat Brooke Green and Republican Greg Chaney. Chaney says the bill is patterned after a 30-year-old Arizona law. He argues it does not restrict First Amendment rights.
“If this bill passes, you will, nonetheless, have the same right to protest that you have now. It is a location restriction only and it is a narrow one," he said.
Green argues public protest is fine, but people should be allowed to go home without fear of being intimidated. She says spouses and children suffer because they’re often home when protestors arrive.
The bill was approved 11-to-four after two days of testimony. It now moves to the full House for debate.