BOISE, Idaho — An angry mob of armed citizens stormed the Idaho state Capitol building Monday, chanting, breaking rules and breaking the glass door as they demanded entry into the House chambers.
The occasion was otherwise known as Day One of the Idaho Legislature special session.
No wonder Gov. Brad Little was so reluctant to bring legislators back to Boise.
So much for civil discourse.
Despite health orders calling for social distancing and wearing masks, both of those orders were ignored, and House Speaker Scott Bedke rewarded the unruly behavior and scofflaws with entry into the House gallery. But, he did warn them to observe “decorum.” It seems like decorum had already gone out the window (broken or otherwise).
The Associated Press reported that people who were not being let into the House gallery over social distancing requirements began chanting and banging on the glass doors. Witnesses said the crowd appeared to surge forward, and the glass broke, and people rushed in to fill the gallery.
“We ended up having to push our way in,” anti-government activist Ammon Bundy said. “Eventually, they yielded to the people’s voice and they allowed us in, after some pushing and shoving and some shouting. That’s sometimes the way democracy, if you want to call it that, is.”
Pushing and shoving and shouting has become Bundy’s modus operandi, as that’s what he did when he wasn’t allowed to enter a Southwest District Health board meeting recently.
Later, Monday’s crowd disrupted the meeting of the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration committee, packing into the small hearing room and forcing the committee members to move to the much larger Lincoln Auditorium, which also quickly filled to near capacity, with signs on seats meant to create social distancing ignored.
The work of the Judiciary committee, limiting the liability that businesses, schools and churches have when it comes to legal claims against them if someone contracts COVID-19 during the coronavirus pandemic, seemed to be the main target of the angry mob’s ire.
“We want to make sure the immunity bill doesn’t pass,” Bundy said. “That the governing officials don’t think they can hurt us without legal accountability.”
Which is an odd position to take for a group of people who have demanded that citizens have the choice to make their own decisions, whether it comes to wearing a mask or practicing social distancing or getting a vaccination.
Why, then, now would they demand that someone else be held accountable for their own decisions? Why would they want to be able to sue a restaurant if they contract COVID-19 at that restaurant? It was their decision to go there to begin with.
Monday’s special session, itself, is a good example, and it’s dripping irony and hypocrisy.
Without social distancing and without wearing masks, should these citizens now be able to sue the state, which hosted Monday’s soiree, if one of them (or many of them) fall ill or die from COVID-19?
At the beginning of the Judiciary committee hearing on liability, state Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, announced that she was leaving the meeting because mask and social distancing protocols were not being followed, resulting in a public health risk.
“I am excusing myself from the committee due to safety hazards,” Wintrow said. “This is not social distancing. I agree to compromise —” at which point she was interrupted by a mixed bag of jeers, cheers, hoots and hollers.
Committee chairman Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, had to gavel down the crowd, asking again for that all-elusive “decorum.”
“I think it’s really appalling,” she said. “I have been a civil and kind leader in the state I have never, ever lambasted any of you, and this is essential that we remain civil.”
Civility, unfortunately, went out the window with these folks right from the start.
Scott McIntosh is the opinion editor of the Idaho Statesman.