Idaho governor wins lawsuit against illegal encampment outside Capitol: 'We are not Portland'
Idaho Gov. Brad Little reacted after winning a lawsuit against a public encampment outside the Capitol Annex he said had turned into a danger zone.
A judge’s decision earlier in January granted the governor’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by activists challenging his administration’s actions to remove the encampment.
"We’ve sent a clear message: Idaho does not tolerate illegal public encampments and destruction of public property," Little said in a statement.
Individuals started gathering on the state property in Boise last January, according to Little's office. The encampments had eventually led to an increased need for police action because of reports of hypodermic needles, bags containing human feces and urine, soiled clothing, vomit-covered tents, rotting food, abandoned property, violence, drug abuse and distribution, garbage and fire hazards.
"I could see it every day," Little told Fox News Digital on Thursday. "And we had no shortage of people upset about it."
A public encampment in Idaho. (Photo courtesy of the office of Idaho Gov. Brad Little)
Little said they won their case by aggregating the facts and providing evidence of hypodermic needles found at the public encampment site, in addition to human waste.
"It just looked like heck," Little said.
The governor said there was public housing, forums, and public programs available to homeless individuals. He blamed activists for riling people up to stay parked on state property.
"But they were there, they were harassing state employees and legislators when they went by," he recalled. "And we just don't have that in Idaho. But activists got these people — some of them with not much in the way of means, ginned up to stay there even though there were other places they could stay."
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Drugs retrieved from an Idaho public encampment. (FOX News)
Little said there were faith-based places homeless persons could go "which almost always have room," mental health facilities and substance abuse facilities. He also noted that all three branches of state government have a behavioral health counsel which routinely makes recommendations.
"Our settlement was, ‘You’re trespassing,'" Little said. "'You're violating state law, particularly if there's a place where you can go.'"
Encampment participants and protesters had criticized city programs designed to help the homeless and local homeless shelter providers and demanded other accommodations. A homeless man told the Idaho Press last March he stayed in the tents outside the Capitol Annex "because I am homeless, and I’m tired of seeing the housing prices be skyrocketing like they are."
In his public statement, Little maintained that Idaho is "not Portland, L.A., San Francisco, or Seattle where public officials have engaged in failed experiments to permit and encourage unsafe and destructive public camping."
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Portland, Oregon's homeless population rose by 50% from 2,037 in 2019 to more than 3,000 in 2022, resulting in more than 700 encampments spread out over 146 square miles. In November, Portland’s city council voted to ban unsanctioned homeless camps on streets in a move that some critics claimed criminalized homelessness.
"We're the fastest-growing state for multiple reasons," Little said. "But I hear all the time from people when they come here, from places like Portland, Seattle, places in California, other cities, it's so clean and it's so safe. Our crime statistics are — we're one of the safest places in the country, and we're one of the cleanest places."
Idaho Gov. Brad Little and his wife Teresa Little, at left, smile during a unity rally on the steps of the Idaho Capital on Wednesday, May 18, 2022. (Sarah A. Miller/Idaho Statesman/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
"We just wanted to do everything we could to make sure Idaho looks like Idaho," he added. "It's right next to the most iconic building in the state, our state Capitol. And it was just a terrible look. And, in fact, they were just kind of leveraging... an opportunity to make a statement, when we had programs."