Ryan Thorne, Nate Lowery
Add the Words demonstrators stood with hands over mouths blockading the Idaho Senate chamber door Monday morning in preparation for the day’s legislative session to begin at 11 a.m. Protestors wore black t-shirts with “Add the 4 words Idaho” emblazoned across the front.
After a senate member tried to enter the main entrance and was blocked by demonstrators, police soon arrived, asking once again for members to vacate the door area then informed participants they would be charged with trespassing and removed from the Capitol Building by 10:30 a.m.
Shortly before officers began to remove demonstrators, “Add the Words” protestor and former state Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, stood just aside from the main group and quietly explained what she and fellow activists were doing.
“For seven years, people have tried to be heard, to have a public hearing, to tell their stories of what it’s like to be gay in the state of Idaho,” LeFavour said. “People are beaten in alleyways and our young people commit suicide. People are fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, denied service in restaurants and they are here because it is time legislators stood up and said ‘It is wrong to be cruel to gay and transgender people.’”
Slowly, officers began removing demonstrators five at a time, walking them single file up to the top level of the Capitol Building and into the Gold Room where they were held until they began to be released at roughly 11:30 a.m.
All demonstrators remained silent with their mouths covered by their hands during the entire process.
LeFavour was the last remaining demonstrator to block the senate door. By the time nearly 40 participants had been escorted out by state police, senate members and staffers had entered and filled the senate chamber through side doors.
One woman tried to shut the door however, LeFavour stood firm and blocked the door from being closed completely. State police then asked media members to vacate the immediate area prompting anger from journalists.
“This is a public area,” one journalist said in protest.
“No it’s not,” the state officer replied. “Please step back past the double doors.”
“I feel like this is infringing on our rights,” a KTVB cameraman said as two male state police officers slowly pushed media representatives back into the Senate chamber’s entry room and away from LeFavour who stood with hand over mouth, officers to her right and left and a full Senate chamber behind her, still blocking the door from closing completely.
A statehouse staff member stood blocking LeFavour from view as officers consulted.
LeFavour was allowed to remain in the chamber under Senate Rule 46A which allows “…members of the present and past legislatures of this state and territory…(to) be admitted a seat upon the floor of the Senate chamber.”
Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, then motioned to suspend Senate Rule 46A as the first ordered of business.
Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, seconded the motioned before it passed unanimously, 34-0.
LeFavour was escorted out of the Senate chamber shortly afterwards by the sergeant-at-arms.
No official arrests were made in the process. All protesters received a misdemeanor trespassing citation and will appear in court on a future date.