A Way of Honoring our Political Leaders: Liberate Moscow Protest

“This protest is a way of honoring our political leaders,” Gabe Rench said on Monday night to a crowd of about 250 people. “By recognizing their authority, while peacefully and respectfully standing up to them when they are wrong.”

Gabe Rench, who is running for Latah County Commissioner,
speaking to the gathered crowd at the Liberate Moscow Protest

The protest was called Liberate Moscow Peaceful Protest. It took place on April 20 at 6:15pm at Moscow City Hall. Protestors lined up around Moscow City Hall and on either side of Washington street.  

Some of the protestors wore face masks. Many were observing the city’s social distancing policy. 

According to the Facebook event page, Gabe Rench and Caleb Bouma were the organizers.

Currently, there are three* reported COVID-19 cases in Latah county and no deaths. 

One study on Latah County reports that the county has lost over 3,000 jobs with an economic impact loss of over $22 million. 

Several cars and semi trucks honked in support of the protestors. 

Some of the signs said: “Worst shutdown ever” “We love Moscow, please re-open” “Liberty before safety” “Praying for our city council” and “Masks work so should we.”

There were several American flags being waved. One person had a flag that said “Don’t Tread on me, live free or die.”

Several Moscow city policemen were there, walking around at different intersections. Some were chatting with various protestors.  

On the sidewalk around City Hall there were some anti-protest chalk messages. One read, “Protestors go home, You are not helping anyone.” 

A truck was parked on Washington street with a big sign in the bed saying, “Come on, Guys! Be a team player. Keep your family safe 🙁 Stay home!”

Protestors gathered on the sidewalk.

At about 6:30pm, Rench stood up by the door at city hall and spoke to the crowd for a few minutes. He began, by saying “Gather round, y’all, 6 feet apart.” The crowd laughed at that. 

Rench then said, “In times of intense disagreement, we should still strive to honor our city officials and governor. We have voted for these leaders, and we are truly grateful for the sacrifice they have taken to be city officials.”

He went on to explain, “This is a protest of encouragement, not of anger. This is a protest of joyful pressure urging our city officials to change course.” He also added, “We want this protest to be about facts and truth, and we do not want to be a mob gathering blindly and because we are all worked up.”

Rench then gave a short history of the events in and around Moscow: “On March 13th our City Council signed a resolution for seven days that came with a series of social distancing recommendations. Then three days later, on May 16th, they extended that resolution to May 5th. On March 20th, Mayor Lambert issued a Public Health Emergency Order limiting gatherings of 10 or more, effectively shutting down most of our downtown businesses, which has led to Latah county losing more than 3,000 jobs and about $22 million in revenue. This Public Health Order has also been extended to May 5th. On March 25th, Governor Brad Little issued a “Stay-at-Home” order, which has been extended until April 30th.” 

Protestors carried signs and flags. Some wore masks.

Rench emphasized that the protesters are concerned and care for those who have died from COVID-19, “Of course we care about those who have died from COVID, just like we care about those who die from the flu, H1N1, and so forth. Of course we care about those who are at high risk of dying from the COVID, the vulnerable, and the elderly.” Words of agreement could be heard from the crowd.  

He then emphasized, “What we are against is decisions made in fear, the politicization of this pandemic, and the draconian warrantless measures taken by our officials here in Moscow and down in Boise.”

Rench encouraged city leaders to bear the burden with the people of Moscow. He said, “Good leaders have to make tough decisions, but one of the marks of a good leader, is being willing to suffer with your people through those tough decisions.” A few in the crowd agreed at this, saying “yeah!”

He then cited several examples of innovation in the country and in Moscow. He said, “Here locally, city council lady,, Brandy Sullivan, she told me that she is using her city paycheck to order out food, buy a year long membership at NIAC, and so forth. A number of you have done these sorts of things. My point is, find innovative ways to serve, start companies, and more, for when things are most difficult, this is when we should be bursting with gratitude, innovation, and care and concern for our community.”

Scott Postma posted this video of Gabe Rench’s speech on Facebook.

Rench then closed the protest in prayer, saying, “Heavenly Father- we thank you for sending Jesus to die for our sins and the sins of this world. We know you are sovereign over all, including this pandemic, and we boldy call on you to act as we seek you here and now. We thank you for our city, county, and state officials, and we ask that you would give them a spirit of wisdom and not fear.” At the end there were many people who said “amen” and cheered and clapped. 

As the protest began to slow down around 7pm, Caleb Bouma, one of the organizers, and Simon Smith, one of the few counter-protestors, were talking cheerfully together. 

Smith was wearing a lab coat and had on a face mask. His sign had a drawing of Benjamin Franklin and a kite with the words, “Anti-Science? Hold my string.” 

When asked about the current situation, Smith said, “The only way to get moving, where we keep both the lives and the economy going is that we get solid testing throughout. We need a lot more testing so you can pinpoint the people who already have the antibodies, get them back to work and get things ticking up and then test everybody else.” He added, “The idea of starting the economy back up without that information is fool-hardy in the extreme.” 

Bouma, who also wore a face mask, said that he was hoping for this protest to get more air time for ideas that are not being discussed. He said “I think we need a more balanced approach. I think that rather than either/or solutions that pit people against each other, we need to be more creative and at the local level figuring out solutions that are both/and solutions.”    

He explained, “Instead of let’s save lives or let’s save jobs, let’s figure out a way to preserve lives and practice social distancing while allowing people to work.”

* Article update: At the time of the protest there were three reported COVID-19 cases in Latah county and no deaths. The Idaho Division of Public Health reported that there is now a fourth case in the county.


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