KEY POINTS

  • Right-wing protesters forced their way into an Idaho state House hearing, demanding the state reopen
  • The protesters consisted largely of anti-vaxxers and local militia, some of whom were armed
  • Idaho Gov. Brad Little has faced growing scrutiny from within the Republican Party over his response to the pandemic

Protesters forced their way past police and packed the viewing gallery in the Idaho House of Representatives, interrupting a legislative hearing and demanding the state reopen.

Authorities did not provide the exact number of protesters in Boise on Monday, but observers said there were dozens. The protesters represented small but vocal far-right groups, including local militias and anti-vaxxers, openly opposed to the measures taken during the coronavirus pandemic. The scene was reminiscient of protests from April and March in Michigan and Washington state where protesters demanded the states be reopened and threatened physical harm to several lawmakers.

As of Tuesday, Idaho had 30,477 confirmed coronavirus cases and 322 reported deaths.

The protesters, who were not wearing masks, forced their way past police and broke several windows and doors making their way inside. Signs reminding people to socially distance were defaced and protesters openly laughed at lawmakers when asked to distance.

Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke said he was disappointed by the protesters actions and called their actions unnecessary.

“I think we’re better than that,” Bedke told the Associated Press. “I think that Idahoans expect more out of their citizens.”

It was the latest example of pushback Republican Gov. Brad Little has faced for his handling of the pandemic. He has regularly used his executive power to order business closures and find ways to enforce health guidelines, meeting with intense blowback from his own party.

State Rep. Heather Scott had arguably the harshest criticism, comparing Little to a dictator and calling him “Little Hitler.”

“I mean, that's no different than Nazi Germany where you had government telling people you were an essential worker or nonessential worker and the nonessential workers got put on a train,” Scott said.