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Sierra Club sued Boise over the city’s protest-megaphone ban. What a judge just decided

At a Friday climate march, getting loud will be allowed, a federal judge has ruled.

On Wednesday, the judge issued a “partial injunction” in the Sierra Club’s lawsuit against the city of Boise over the Police Department’s enforcement of a noise ordinance that bans the use of megaphones at protests. The ruling will allow the Sierra Club’s youth climate activist team to use megaphones during the rally, the Sierra Club said.

The environmental advocacy organization sued the city April 2 over its noise ordinance, as well as its requirement that groups get permission from the city before holding a meeting in a city park. The Sierra Club argued that the laws’ vagueness and uneven enforcement were unconstitutionally limiting protesters’ freedom of speech.

“Police in Boise have recently started ticketing protesters for using megaphones — and arresting them if they don’t stop,” the lawsuit says. “Police are now using Boise’s ordinances to silence and chill protected free speech in public forums where it is the most protected: the streets, sidewalks, plazas, and parks of downtown Boise.”

The injunction is only an interim step in the case, as it kept in effect for other events, at least for now, the ordinances that limit gatherings and the use of loudspeakers and megaphones in Boise parks, the Sierra Club said in a news release. But is an “overall positive sign … that our case clearly has some merit,” Noah Rott, the Sierra Club’s deputy press secretary, told the Idaho Statesman via email.

The Sierra Club alleged the city has disproportionately enforced the noise ordinance against left-leaning protesters, citing the ticketing of a demonstrator at a 2021 protest against police injustice, arrests at abortion-rights protests in 2022 and 2023, and the ticketing of a pro-Palestine protest in December.

The Sierra Club does not have data on when and how often the department has enforced the law, but has a sense “anecdotally” that right-leaning protesters have not faced the same enforcement, Lisa Young, the organization’s Idaho chapter director, previously told the Statesman.

As director of the Idaho Sierra Club, Lisa Young has used megaphones at Boise-area protests for years, according to court filings. Though the use of megaphones violates the city’s noise ordinance, the law went largely unenforced until 2021, Young said.

As director of the Idaho Sierra Club, Lisa Young has used megaphones at Boise-area protests for years, according to court filings. Though the use of megaphones violates the city’s noise ordinance, the law went largely unenforced until 2021, Young said.

“We have observed instances where there are people using other loudspeakers at events that we do not see the police intervening on,” she said. “People have mentioned that, at the Pride event last year, there were some counter-protesters of some sort that were being really loud and using some kind of amplified sound device … kind of heckling some of the Pride events. To our knowledge, those people were not detained or anything, or asked to stop doing that.”

Haley Williams, a spokesperson for the Boise Police Department, declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.

The Idaho Climate Justice League plans to participate in the “Global Climate Strike” at noon Friday, the Sierra Club said in the news release. An estimated 50 youth protesters were expected to start at the Capitol and march several blocks around downtown before finishing at City Hall.

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