June 21, 2024
Boise health board abruptly adjourns coronavirus meeting as protesters gather outside and at board members' homes

Boise health board abruptly adjourns coronavirus meeting as protesters gather outside and at board members’ homes

During the virtual meeting, which was broadcast live on the board’s YouTube page, District Director Russ Duke said he was contacted by Mayor Lauren McLean asking them to stop the meeting due to an “intense level of protesters in the parking lot and the concern for police safety and staff safety, as well as the protesters that are at some of our board members’ homes right now.”

Christine Myron, a spokeswoman for Central District Health, told CNN that the board was set to discuss a districtwide public health order about Covid-19 restrictions across its four counties — Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley — that they have been discussing for a number of weeks.

A motion was made about 12 minutes into the meeting to end the session.

As a motion to end the meeting was being discussed, board member Megan Blanksma told other people on the board that she checked with Boise police at the building who told her the situation was under control.

Scores of people, some carrying signs against mandates or lockdowns, were gathered outside the building.

Board member Dr. Ted Epperly responded saying, “Sadly it’s not under control at my house, and it’s not under control at (board member) Diana (Lachiondo)’s house.”

Earlier in the meeting, Lachiondo told other members her children were at the house, demonstrators were there, and she was calling the police. Later she tearfully said she was leaving her office to go home because her 12-year-old son was home alone, and protesters were banging outside the door.

She gave an update on Twitter, writing: “Update: We are fine. Thanks all for your concern and especially @BoisePD for your help.”

Boise police said there were protesters at three homes but didn’t identify them.

During a meeting Friday, the board presented a draft of a new public health order, which garnered 2,000 written comments before the session and 3,000 after the revisions.

The draft, posted on the district’s website, included prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more people, requiring face coverings indoors and outdoors, prohibiting visits to jails and correctional facilities, and adding parameters for visits to long-term care facilities.

Tuesday’s meeting ended before that could be discussed.

Myron said there was increased police presence at their headquarters because they were anticipating significant protests similar to what they saw Friday.

“A large contingent of the population is not in favor of this and definitely wants to express their side of things. So, going forward, we will definitely be having conversations with law enforcement and probably looking to them for guidance on next best steps on how we can have these important conversations in a safe environment, and make decisions that are in the best interest of the communities that we serve,” Myron told CNN.

Boise police said there were several incidents that concerned them.

“Due to the large crowd size, concurrent reports of protesters causing disturbances at or near the homes of board members, a disturbance inside of the meeting, and other significant calls for service, BPD requested the CDH meeting adjourn in the interest of public safety,” department officials said on their website.

Police intend to charge some people with disturbing the peace at the homes of board members, the release says.

One person was arrested at the CDH building and is accused of trespassing.

The mayor said she consulted with police when she thought things were unsafe.

“My priority was and always will be the safety of our residents; the safety of our children home alone with protesters outside their door; of our residents charged with making public health decisions; of the staff that work at these agencies; and of our officers who put themselves between a mob of people and those tasked with protecting public health,” she said in a statement.

She blamed people “outside our community” for stirring up trouble.

CNN has reached out to Boise police and the mayor’s office for additional comments.

A new date for the meeting was not announced.

According to the district’s website, there have been 30,561 coronavirus cases in the counties, which have about 528,000 residents. At least 281 people who had confirmed or presumed cases have died.