Anti-government activist Bundy arrested at Idaho Statehouse
BOISE, Idaho – Authorities arrested anti-government activist Ammon Bundy at the Idaho Statehouse on Tuesday after refusing to leave a meeting room where angry protesters had kicked lawmakers hours earlier.
Bundy did not respond to shouted questions from a reporter as he was led into an elevator in a chair he had apparently refused to get out of. At least two others were also arrested after the police emptied the room, and they also refused to follow police orders to leave. Another person was taken into custody earlier in the same room where protesters shouted at lawmakers.
The incident follows another Monday when angry protesters forced their way into the gallery at Idaho House which had little seating due to the coronavirus pandemic, the window of a glass door s is shattered as protesters jostled with police. Protesters were finally allowed in when Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke stepped in, seeking to avoid violence.
Lawmakers are meeting in a special session called by Republican Gov. Brad Little due to the coronavirus pandemic. Bundy and other protesters oppose a proposed accountability bill designed to protect schools, businesses and government entities from prosecution of people who contract COVID-19. Some lawmakers also oppose legislation which they believe will remove liability.
Tuesday’s unrest began when committee chairman Republican Representative Greg Chaney ordered two people seated in an area reserved for accredited members of the media to vacate those seats. Press credentials are controlled by the Capitol Correspondents Association.
“I’m not sure exactly what their purpose is, but I’m absolutely sure the two people I asked to leave intended to create a scene,” he said. “Sometimes in the last 24-36 hours, this building has descended into utter chaos, and the only way to make sure all citizens feel comfortable coming here to have their voices heard is to ensure that we do not allow deviations from the rules in general.
The committee felt that the legislation left the meeting room because at least a dozen Idaho state police officers formed a shield between them and the crowd of more than 100 people.
Bundy, who led the 2016 occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, took one of the accredited media seats after lawmakers left the room. He said police and lawmakers were anxious to exercise their authority following Monday’s incident. He said he didn’t ask anyone to disrupt the meeting, and he challenged those who qualified as a certified member of the media.
“What does accredited mean? Who is the freedom of the press for? Those who have degrees? No it’s not, ”he told The Associated Press. “Freedom of the press is a protection for the people. Your credentials are great, and I think you do a much better job than we do, but the point is, the government is not supposed to say that this person has freedom of the press and has the right to be at a certain place and these people don’t.
The committee met later that day in another high-security room and approved a public hearing for the liability legislation.
Meanwhile, another committee earlier today removed legislation to provide greater opportunity for in-person voting for the November 3 general election amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The House State Affairs Committee voted 10-5 to remove the legislation that was the main reason Republican Gov. Brad Little recalled the part-time legislature for a special session.
The legislation would have allowed counties to create polling centers where residents of different constituencies could vote. Election officials say they face a shortage of election officials and potentially voting sites in November due to the pandemic.
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