Video screenshot, Facebook

In Boise on Monday, on the first day of Idaho's special legislative session, access to the gallery in the state House of Representatives was limited, to allow for social distancing. Naturally, a crowd of mask-protesting idiots from the militia and anti-vaxxer groups wanted in, because they are bravely fighting for their God-given right to spew respiratory droplets wherever they want. Some in the crowd pushed past state troopers guarding a hallway, and eventually the crush of patriots trying to rip open a pair of wood and glass doors shattered one of them (the doors, not the state troopers). Among the crowd was Ammon Bundy, the armed standoffer turned anti-health crusader; you can see him at the right of the screenshot up top.

It's Idaho in the time of COVID-19, and a special session called by Gov. Brad Little to deal with coronavirus-related issues has predictably turned the state lege into a madhouse. And a madsenate.


Eventually, House Speaker Scott Bedke (R) told the crowd they could take seats in the gallery if they would please conduct themselves like civilized human beings, which no doubt annoyed some of those who consider civilization an unconstitutional form of oppression. Bedke, sounding like a middle school vice principle, and not one of the cool ones with jelly beans on their desk, told the AP,

I want to always try to avoid violence. [...] My initial reaction of course was to clear the fourth floor. But we had room for at least some more.

I think we're better than that. [...] I think that Idahoans expect more out of their citizens.

Few in the crowded gallery wore masks, because didn't we already say "Idaho wingnuts"? One gent, Allen Clark of Meridian, whinesplained, "This is our house. We own this house. We pay taxes. We're citizens of Idaho. Why can't we be allowed in a public meeting?"

The AP explains, much as an old National Geographic article might explicate the queer folk traditions of an exotic, distant land where spoons and indoor plumbing are fascinating, hilarious novelties,

Clark also carried across his chest what he said was a Yugoslavian M70B1 with a loaded 30-round magazine. Idaho permits the open carry of firearms, including in the Statehouse. People carrying assault-style rifles are not uncommon when the Legislature is in session, usually when legislation involves gun restrictions. No such legislation has been proposed for the special session.

It's an AK knockoff, nobody cares about your Yugo, get over yourself, Allen.

As the day progressed, NPR reports, protesters crammed themselves into committee rooms, where they "defaced paper signs meant to leave one empty seat between those in the audience." At one point, the crowding got so bad that Democratic state Rep. Melissa Wintrow (my state rep, actually) bailed on the proceedings because there was no hope of social distancing.

That prompted uproarious laughter from the Branch Covidians — oh lordy, how they laughed! — because look at the wimp, afraid of something that isn't even real. If Wintrow really wants to protect the good people of Idaho, why isn't she doing something about creeping Sharia law, or maybe preventing people from having to wear face masks, which is just like what Hitler did to the Jews.

House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel (D) said the hundreds of unmasked people packing into the statehouse and ignoring social distancing made her fear the special session would become a superspreader event. The session is taking up some valuable topics, like measures to make expanded absentee voting go more smoothly, but she said she wasn't sure the special session was worth the risk, saying, "I was afraid when we headed in that there would be a lot of people not wearing masks, but it's way worse than anything I had feared."

No arrests were made Monday; an Idaho State Police spokesperson, Martha Hightower, said Tuesday that "an investigation is underway into any criminal behavior that may have occurred" but that state police on Monday "determined they could not have made arrests on the spot without elevating the potential for violence." Which, if you watch the Facebook video of the crowd, seems like an accurate call. Clearly, there's only one way to deal with potential rioters: Give them whatever they want, if they're white.

On Tuesday, however, there were a few arrests in the statehouse when some of the Virus ISIS protesters parked themselves in areas reserved for the press, insisting that you don't need no damn credentials to be a journalist because America. Among those were ol' Ammon Bundy, who had been in the Lincoln auditorium during a hearing on a bill that would provide civil liability to schools and businesses. Two members of the antivaxxer group Health Freedom Idaho, which has been closely allied with Bundy and other rightwing anti-health groups, were arrested after they sat at the press table during the hearing and insisted they were press (they are not).

After that, Bundy sat himself down at the press desk too, even though the hearing had ended. We can't top the Idaho Press's coverage of the shitshow, so we won't even try:

When Bundy was arrested after 5 p.m., the hearing he had briefly attended was long over, and both the House and Senate had adjourned for the day. Bundy refused to stand, so troopers handcuffed him and rolled him out of the building still seated in an office chair, according to ISP. [...]

Around 4 p.m., Bundy told the Idaho Press he was upset about "citizen journalists," one of them representing Health Freedom Idaho, being removed from the hearing earlier, and went and sat at the press desk himself in protest. "I'm going to sit right here," he said.

Troopers were clearing the hearing room at the order of Speaker of the House Scott Bedke, according to ISP. All but three of the roughly 18 people in the auditorium voluntarily left the room.

Bundy and the two others were arrested and charged with misdemeanor trespassing; Bundy also picked up additional charges of resisting arrest and obstructing officers.

The Idaho Press also notes that during an earlier arrest of a guy who'd been sitting in a press seat and arguing that he didn't need to register for a press credential, the crowd got about as stupid as you'd expect from LibertyFreedomPatriots, shouting "Nuremberg!" and "How dare you!" and "We were only following orders!" at the state police who removed the doofus.

In conclusion, these folks know that masks are Hitler, social distancing is Hitler, press credentials are Hitler, and being told to leave an empty hearing room is also Hitler. It's Hitler all the way down, the end.

[AP / NPR / Idaho Statesman / Idaho Press / Boise State Public Radio]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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