Wednesday at Boise City Hall, Mayor Lauren McLean swore in new Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee.
Lee formally takes the job one day after a Black Lives rally on the steps of Boise City Hall met with confrontation from a group of counter-protestors organized by the “Idaho Liberty Dogs” group, according to Idaho Press reporter Tommy Simmons. KTVB reports shoving, fistfights, and angry exchanges of words. The station’s reporter, Misty Inglet, said she was spit at during the event, and the perpetrator yelled “fuck the media.”
The Idaho Statesman’s Ximena Bustillo reports online video showed “at least one counterprotester had SS Bolts, which are common white supremacist/neo-Nazi symbol, tattooed to his arm.” The Statesman’s report said another counterprotester had the SS bolts on their clothing, and that she observed someone yelling racist epitaphs.
Boise Police made no arrests, but council member Holli Woodings urged members of the public who were “battered or assaulted” should contact BPD.
Lee sworn in after heated protest, counterprotest
Early Tuesday, McLean addressed the heated situation in a written statement.
“Peaceful protest was the goal of the protesters who gathered – to speak their truths and call on us as leaders to take action,” McLean said. She noted that the BLM group has held peaceful protests in recent weeks. “Last night’s gathering would have been similar if not for the efforts to intimidate, and potentially incite additional violence, by counter protesters. I condemn those who showed up in our community under the guise of ‘protection’ and instead intimidated, shouted epithets and white nationalist slogans, and in some case physically assaulted protesters. There is no room for this in our city.”
During the swearing in ceremony for Lee, neither McLean nor the new chief addressed the events directly. Media members were told McLean would not make a further statement and that Lee would not take questions.
However, Lee did answer questions from journalists. For the most part, Lee said he needed to get up to speed on the events, and noted he was not formally in the chief’s role until today.
“I’m a firm advocate of free speech,” Lee said. “I’m going to examine the events of last night. I’m sad to see that happen. I’ve got to look through all the events and look at what we did do and what we could do better.”
BoiseDev asked him if he had a message for the groups gathered last night.
“As a police chief (I am) neutral politically. We are not concerned at the speech but I do have issue with the conduct,” he said. “Some of the conduct I saw on the news is reprehensible. Physical confrontation is wholly inappropriate.”
The Idaho Press reports some of the BLM protesters last night criticized during speeches Lee’s role in handling protests in Portland in his former role with the Portland Police Bureau – including clashes the far-left and far-right. The paper said the activists felt some in the Portland department became too friendly with supremacists.