Maskless Crowd Storms Legislature

Spectators break glass door in rush to fill Idaho House gallery for pandemic session
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 24, 2020 7:00 PM CDT
Crowd Pushes Into Legislative Session on Pandemic
Demonstrators cheer Monday in the hallway of the Capitol when they hear that a House concurrent resolution was proposed that would end the governor's "state of emergency" declaration in Idaho.   (Katherine Jones/Idaho Statesman via AP)

Angry, maskless spectators forced themselves into the Idaho House special session on the coronavirus pandemic Monday, shattering a glass door, rushing into the gallery that had limited seating because of the virus and forcing lawmakers to ask for calm in a crowd that included a man carrying an assault-style weapon. After some people shoved their way past state police, Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke allowed the gallery to fully open as long as the crowd stopped chanting and was respectful. He said later he was more disappointed than surprised at the violence, the AP reports. "I think we're better than that," he said. "I think that Idahoans expect more out of their citizens." Several conservative lawmakers asked for calm and decorum from the gallery crowd. The session started with a full gallery and few masks. House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel said the session was turning into a super-spreader event for the coronavirus.

That carried over into packed committee rooms, where maskless spectators ignored social distancing. One Democratic representative walked out of a committee meeting, citing unsafe conditions. People not let into the House gallery because of social distancing requirements began chanting and banging on the glass doors. Witnesses said the crowd appeared to surge forward, and the glass broke before people rushed in to fill the gallery. "We own this house," said Allen Clark of Meridian, who was among those who got in. "We pay taxes. We're citizens of Idaho. Why can't we be allowed in a public meeting?" Across his chest, Clark carried what he said was a Yugoslavian M70B1 with a loaded 30-round magazine. Idaho permits the open carry of firearms, including in the Statehouse.

(More pandemic stories.)

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