BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — Scott Thompson’s baby daughter nearly died at St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center last year, when a rare condition attacked her spinal cord and paralyzed her from the waist down. She spent weeks in the hospital, Thompson said. On Monday night, Thompson took his 16-month-old to the hospital again because she was sick and required oxygen.
By mid-afternoon Tuesday, Thompson said, his daughter had a room at the hospital that looked down onto Avenue B, where protesters had gathered.
Far-right activist Ammon Bundy had urged supporters to go to the Boise hospital to protest a child custody case and demand the return of a 10-month-old baby to his parents. The hospital went on lockdown for about an hour as a result, according to St Luke’s Health System. At the time Thompson was watching from the window while his daughter slept, he told the Statesman.
“We brought her in and there’s people driving by, honking horns and blowing whistles, and it just seemed like they were completely unaware of the impact they’d be having on somebody like my daughter,” Thompson said. He recalled that the hospital announced the lockdown four or five times through loudspeakers and ordered everyone to stay in the building.
Thompson said his daughter was discharged days later, but Tuesday’s events continued to mystify him. Thompson said he supports people’s right to protest, but didn’t understand why the protesters would choose the hospital as the location for their demonstration, where people are “dying, fighting for their life, being born — like really critical situations that just don’ t have anything to do with what you’re trying to fight.”
“With all this stuff that’s been going on, it doesn’t feel like the concern is the well-being of people,” he said. “It feels like this is a political stunt, or a political charade.”
In an interview with the Idaho Statesman, Miranda Chavoya, the aunt of the baby involved in the custody dispute, said Tuesday’s protest was not intended to disrupt the hospital.
“Nobody was ordered to enter the hospital or threaten the hospital,” she said. “Obviously we understand that it’s a working hospital, people need access.”
The protests came to a head Friday, when imminent actions were called off after authorities abruptly returned the 10-month-old child to his parents. But those involved have vowed to keep demonstrating, and further actions are still in the works.
“There is no need to continue protesting or harassing our public health officials, police officers or anyone else involved,” the Meridian Police Department said in a news release Friday.
SOCIAL WORKER, LAW ENFORCEMENT TARGETED
On March 11, after authorities say they made multiple attempts to verify the welfare of the 10-month-old baby, police detained the mother in Garden City. Law enforcement took custody of the child when authorities said his condition could lead to severe injury or death, police said.
The family maintains the boy had lost weight, but that the amount was not substantial, and that the family was working to find foods that would nourish him and help him gain weight.
Protests at the Boise hospital, the Ada County Courthouse and Department of Health and Welfare headquarters persisted for days afterward. St. Luke’s also received a “surge” of calls, which tied up resources and disrupted services, the hospital said in a Thursday statement. Bundy, who’s running for governor, was arrested on suspicion of trespassing while protesting the case outside St. Luke’s Meridian Medical Center early on March 12.
But more personalized protests began almost immediately.
Along with the demonstrations against Idaho’s child welfare system, protesters also targeted health care workers and government employees. According to spokespersons for Treasure Valley law enforcement and social media posts, protesters have been at the homes of people connected to the child custody case all week.
The protests have specifically targeted people identified as a social worker, two Meridian police officers, a nurse practitioner and an Ada County Magistrate judge, based on social media posts reviewed by the Statesman.
Since March 12, some protesters have held signs with the name and photograph of a nurse practitioner who was treating the baby in question, according to the child’s family. The health care worker allegedly notified Health and Welfare of grave concerns about the child’s health after a doctor’s appointment on March 11 was canceled. The signs targeting the worker have included the words “WANTED” and “HANDS OFF OUR KIDS!”
Posts circulating on social media in the past week include names, photographs and addresses of the targeted residents, along with the banner “perpetrator” above each person’s name.
The child’s grandfather, Diego Rodriguez, spread some of the personalized information. In an interview with the Statesman on Tuesday, Rodriguez said he did not make the signs featuring the nurse practitioner, but that he supported them.
“I don’t think someone might want to harm him, but people need to know who he is,” he said.
Rodriguez also said protesters have gone to the houses of Meridian police officers, which he also said he supports, adding that they are responsible for “real tyranny.” Stephany Galbreaith, a Meridian city spokesperson, confirmed that protesters had gathered outside the homes of officers.
“I’m not someone who’s one of these guys who thinks it’s a bad thing” to go to an official’s house to voice a grievance, Rodriguez said. “I’ve done it myself personally before.”
On Thursday, the Middleton Police Department confirmed there have been protests at an address that has been publicly associated with the nurse practitioner whom the baby’s family says was involved in the case. Protests of differing sizes have gone on for days, according to the department, and police have received complaints about them, although there have been no other incidents.
A spokesperson for Boise Police, Haley Williams, said Friday that police have recently responded to “at least one individual’s home and one government office for protest-related activity.” A spokesperson for the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, Patrick Orr, said there have been protests at homes in the county.
In a Monday Facebook post, Meridian Mayor Robert Simison wrote that “I do not condone protesters going to individuals’ homes, and I urge those organizing these efforts to stop the doxxing.” Doxxing refers to the publication of personal details about individuals online as a form of punishment, revenge or harassment.
“We can all appreciate that people have the right and freedom to protest,” the mayor added, “but I do not believe this filters down to individuals’ homes for those that are doing their duty while on the job.”
PROTESTERS TARGET INDIVIDUALS DURING PANDEMIC
Throughout much of the pandemic, right-wing protesters have resorted to gathering at the homes of officials and others who have been involved in imposing COVID-19-related public health measures or restrictions.
In December 2020, a Democratic then-Ada County commissioner left a local health district meeting early after she discovered anti-mask protesters had gathered outside her house and were banging on the door while her 12-year-old son was home alone. Protesters had also come to the homes of others at the meeting, and the session was adjourned shortly after it started.
On Friday, a lawmaker introduced a bill that would prohibit harassing or threatening public officials by electronic communications or by targeting private homes. But a bill that tried to bar protests targeting individuals’ homes last year failed to garner support in the house.
Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, who chairs the committee where the 2022 version was introduced, at the hearing said the bill would be introduced for “informational purposes,” and that he does not intend for it to move forward this session.
BUNDY ARREST AND PROTEST ORGANIZING
After police detained the baby’s mother and her family late March 11 at a gas station in Garden City, the boy was transported to the St. Luke’s Meridian Medical Center. Bundy, who previously told the Statesman he drove to the hospital from his home in Emmett, was arrested at the hospital on suspicion of misdemeanor trespassing shortly after 1 am
He was released from jail a few hours later, and Bundy and other members of his family, including Cliven Bundy, his father, have been at protests at the hospital since then.
On Wednesday, down the hall from where the custody hearing took place, Bundy was convicted of trespassing and resisting officers at the Idaho Capitol, his second trespassing conviction in less than a year.
In a video posted online Wednesday evening, Bundy called the judge involved in the custody case a “very wicked woman,” and on Friday he posted a video organizing a protest at her home, and included her address.
In the video, he said the judge and others “despise traditional Christian families,” adding that the action was a “peaceful way to show that we will not allow this to go on any longer.”
Bundy also addressed “patriot groups” around the country in his video, saying: “What is happening in this case is so atrocious and ongoing, that I cannot justify trying to hold you back any longer. Whatever you do, you do on your own, but it is not acceptable that (the baby) is not home with his loving family, and I cannot justify holding you back any longer.”
On Friday afternoon, police announced that the baby had been returned to his parents. Soon afterward, Bundy canceled a Saturday protest at an official’s house, and the family called off other protests “indefinitely” in a blog post.
In a Friday news release, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said he has been “disappointed” by actions taken by protesters this week. While protesting is a constitutional right, Wasden said, attempting to intimate those simply doing their jobs “goes too far.”
“It also ignores the fact that the child protection system provides a legal process for these matters to be adjudicated,” Wasden said. “None of us can take the law into our own hands in this fashion.”