The Occupy Boise Double Standard in the Idaho Senate

::Crucial update below 2/10::

So this happened.

Boise Weekly was there.

The Idaho State Senate leadership today pulled a dozen members of Occupy Boise out of the Senate Gallery to discuss cloth, dollar-store American flags pinned to each individual's shirt. In the Minority Caucus room on the fourth floor of the Capitol, Idaho Falls Sen. Bart Davis asked them to remove the flags.

"We have asked many people over the years, people I have agreed with and I have disagreed with," said Sen. Davis. "To not wear buttons, and to not wear hats, and we're asking you please to be similarly sympathetic to allow us to do our business in that fashion."

Ten minutes prior to the meeting of the full Senate, a dozen members of Occupy Boise entered the public gallery, checking in with security to comply with increased security proceedings related to bags. At the desk outside the doors, they safety-pinned American flags to their chests, a protest against the proposed amendments to House Bill 404, which sits on the 14th order awaiting consideration.

What was that Senator Davis? You've consistently applied this rule to friend and foe alike? Well certainly the House hasn't. A large group of hostile hot headed nullification advocates, interested in fighting the Civil War all over again, entered the House hearing room wearing "yellow stickers to show their support of the "nullification bill." There's even video depicting lots of protesters wearing badges.

And looky here. When watching this video, after you get past the guy practically screaming into the microphone because the federal government (gasp) might guarantee him health care, you see footage of you, Senator Bart Davis, deliberating in front of people wearing those same badges. Apparently they do need those steenking badges. And gosh, were they hostile.

Jack Stuart of Meridian told the senators, “I will not accept or obey the health care law. I will go to jail. … Give me liberty or give me death!” As he concluded, there were loud whispers of “yes” from the audience, which then broke out into applause and loud whistles. Committee Chairman Curtis McKenzie, R-Nampa, asked the crowd to refrain from showing approval or disapproval of the testimony.

Thomas Rogers of Nampa told the panel, “This is going to create a monster. It’s going to be worse than Dracula.” He urged the senators to “drive a stake through its heart,” and said, “If the government will just get out of the way, we can do a better job.”

Pretty scary stuff. Funny in all that video from last year, you might see one Capitol security guy casually meandering. Yet in the Occupy Boise video (also linked above), there's two Capitol security guards and two state troopers. Ingress and egress of the hearing room was protected by state troopers.

And what's that about flag protocol being disrespectful? Boise Weekly again.

"This is actually following flag protocol," said Occupier Dean Gunderson. "We are absolutely allowed to wear the American flag as a symbol of our patriotism."

Sen. Davis said the flag "wasn't respectful," and again asked them to remove them.

"I'm expressing my desires. I'm asking you to be respectful in that fashion," said Davis. "If you are not willing to be respectful, we understand that's what you're gonna do."

Odd that burning a flag is a constitutional right, but if you're in a senate hearing room and want to display your patriotism while defending your first amendment rights, its disrespectful.

Senator Davis isn't motivated by the first amendment, the constitution, or senate protocol. It isn't even about consistency. It's about punching hippies, by which I mean its about denigrating people with whom he disagrees politically. Because dehumanizing them is the goal. Because dehumanizing them deters them from exercising their rights. Because dehumanizing them is the ultimate use of the power of Bart's office pumping his virility with each wag of his finger. Because dehumanizing them makes it easier to have those state troopers use pepper spray when these senators render them outlaws and eviction time comes. These sweet folks patronizingly hauled off into that hearing room to have Bart Davis thump his chest in their face are about as threatening as students blocking a sidewalk. And we know what happened to them.

Its already a damn shame. I'd hate for it to become a crying shame.

UPDATE 2/10: My friend Alex made a crucial distinction I missed. The occupy folks were pulled out of the senate gallery, not from a hearing room. The rules before the full senate are different than in the hearing room and displays were allowed by occupiers during the hearings. My points about the security and Bart Davis' patronizing attitude remain. Moreover Alex did note the double standard is alive and well. To quote Alex:

I think the real double... standard here is what happened to Senator Schmidt's amendment which was approved and yet never made it into the bill.

"[Wednesday], the Senate voted in favor of an amendment from Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, to exempt state colleges and universities from the new camping ban in the bill, saying the University of Idaho accommodates camping for events like summer soccer tournaments and swim meets. But that amendment was found to conflict with a later amendment, proposed by Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, because the Davis amendment replaced whole sections of the bill; it was focused on easing property-seizure requirements in the measure.

"That decision left the university amendment without effect, even though a majority of senators had voted for it."

[Y]et consider the Senate's Rule 22(E) (3)

"… If several inconsistent amendments be proposed, upon the adoption of one, the others shall be considered lost and considered no further."

Alex makes a substantive point over the top of my erroneous procedural one for which I'm greatly appreciative. Betsy has more.

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Pomp and circumstance

There's plenty of circumstance behind the good Senator's unadorable pomp. I try (and usually fail) not to get to wound up with stylistic quirks such as what comes across to me as Davis' oleaginous unctuousness, but he's the leader of the pack that has a thick record of serving the interests of a very select subset of "the people."

His measured program of dialing back the House's extreme overreaction does not seem nearly as concerned with free speech as it does with avoiding the trouble that comes from overreaching. He would have been considerably smarter to let the flag business pass without going all parental, even as the pinned-on flags did not, I think, advance the cause of Occupy all that much.

People flogging patriotic symbols seem to imagine they have much greater magical power than they do. Jack Stuart, in full mock-Patrick Henry dudgeon is not actually asking for liberty from his government-provided healthcare insurance. He's just thrilled at a chance to be part of Les Miserables. Senator Davis is miserable in his own, inimitable way.