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Black Lives Matter, counter-protesters argue in Boise

| July 1, 2020 5:01 PM

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Boise Mayor Lauren McLean on Wednesday condemned counter-protesters after she said they used physical violence to interrupt a Black Lives Matter demonstration a day earlier at City Hall.

About 1,000 people gathered outside as City Council met to discuss budget matters, one group called for defunding the police and the other larger group shouting their support for law enforcement.

“Last night our community witnessed -- and many of our residents experienced -- physical violence and intimidation by counter protesters during a Black Lives Matter protest at City Hall,” McLean said in a statement.

“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 cases physically assaulted protesters. There is no room for this in our city.”

The Black Lives Matter Boise protest was met by a second protest led by a group called Idaho Liberty Dogs. The counterprotesters outnumbered those calling for defunding the police.

Police said in a post on Twitter that “interactions between groups were spirited with several fights broken up by on-scene officers." No arrests were made.

Police shut down Capitol Boulevard and officers formed a barrier between the groups as the event grew more heated. Some officers created space between people when it became physical, authorities said. Officers wore plastic face masks, but were not in riot gear. They did not appear to interrupt the demonstration.

During the demonstration, Black Lives Matter organizers asked for a moment of silence in remembrance of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis in May. Counter-protesters did not remain silent and began chanting “USA," the Idaho Press reported.

Idaho Liberty Dogs did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment before the protest.

Alex Mwibey, who said he is a refugee from Africa, said people need to understand the movement is intended to make the country better and forge equality, not stand against anyone. It is unclear where in Africa Mwibey is from.

“I didn’t come here for myself. I came to support my country as a Black man,” Mwibey told the Idaho Statesman. “Especially as a refugee in this country, it’s tough. My parents didn’t want me to come here because they thought I would be killed. But I tell my parents, ‘I am going to go to represent my family, my community.’”

Counterprotester Dawane Harris, of Kuna, said he was amazed by the turnout.

“I am tired of the rhetoric around Black Lives Matter. I mean, I agree Black lives matter, but so do white lives and brown lives and everybody’s life. And especially police lives,” Harris said. “The police are here to protect us and we want to make sure this type of thing doesn’t go too far. I don’t want Boise to turn into Minneapolis.”

Protests have been held in Boise over the past six weeks, most of them have often been met by counter-protesters.