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Idaho lawmaker pushes bill to outlaw protesting outside officials' homes, so protesters gather outside his home to tell him what they think


First Amendment fight

Image source: KTVB-TV video screenshot

Idaho state Rep. Greg Chaney really does not like it when he sees protesters gathering outside the homes of state officials. No matter the cause, the Republican lawmaker feels that such protests are nothing but "intimidation."

So he has introduced a bill, along with Democratic state Rep. Brooke Green, that would outlaw any picketing on the street or sidewalk in front of a person's residence that is intended to "harass, annoy or alarm" and would make such protests a misdemeanor, the Idaho Statesman reported.

In response, a group of Idahoans carrying torches and pitchforks gathered outside Chaney's home Wednesday night to protest his anti-protest legislation.

What's going on?

Chaney's and Greene's bill came as a response to a year that saw protests at the homes of an Ada County commissioner, a Meridian city police officer, Boise City Council members, the Boise mayor, and others, the lawmakers explained in an op-ed for the Statesman.

"This is not protest; it is intimidation," they wrote.

The protest at Cheney's home followed a hearing on the bill earlier Wednesday at the Statehouse that was interrupted by a crowd of protesters, according to the Idaho Press.

Chaney was none too pleased about the gathering at his house and took to Twitter to document the efforts of the 12 to 15 picketers.

"They say they do this because they aren't heard — but we'd just spent hours hearing them in committee and they still showed up where my wife and kids were," he wrote with a photo of the crowd gathered on the sidewalk outside his home.

"They say they do this because have nowhere else to protest. I was at the Statehouse all day allowing them to insult and slander me in my own committee and they still showed up where my wife and kids were," Chaney continued.

Chaney also posted a photo of a stuffed animal in a Chaney T-shirt "hung in effigy" that was reportedly carried by one of the protesters. The lawmaker said that one of his daughters asked, "[W]hy do they want to kill dad?"

"I'm more frustrated for my family than anything," he told the Statesman.

"I was angry for my family's sake," he told KTVB-TV. "I saw the stress on my wife's face. I saw the teary eyes of my daughters."

"Intimidation is not a democratic principle," he added. "Argumentation, protest even, is absolutely appropriate to shape public policy. Making somebody feel unsafe and their family feel unsafe is not an appropriate way to set policy or to react to civil servants."

Critics of the bill say it's unconstitutional and tramples their First Amendment rights, KTVB said. Protesting at homes, they said, is the only way they feel they can be heard.

KBOI-TV reported that police said the protesters were "peaceful and respectful" and that the group was "just a bunch of people exercising their 1st Amendment rights." No arrests were made.

KTVB reported that law enforcement have made it clear that they are in full support of Chaney's bill.

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