Sierra Club challenges City of Boise law that chills protest


Noah Rott, Sierra Club -, 406-214-1990 
Casey Parsons, Wrest Collective -, 208-589-1702

Boise, ID -- Today the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the City of Boise challenging a 70-year-old ordinance that unconstitutionally restricts the use of loudspeakers and megaphones in public spaces. The lawsuit asks Idaho’s federal court to halt enforcement of that ordinance and others like it because they violate First Amendment rights by restricting free speech and creating a "chilling effect" on protest.

"Boise Police have started enforcing this law in recent years specifically to crack down on progressive political activists," said Lisa Young, Director of Idaho Sierra Club. "I’ve used megaphones at every protest I’ve organized for nearly 15 years, to amplify the voices of people impacted by a range of important issues, and now I can’t do so out of fear of getting harassed or arrested by the police. I’m shocked that the City of Boise has embraced this position, and hope that a positive ruling in court can turn this around.”  

Boise City Code § 5-7-3 was used by police to ticket a Black Lives Matter activist in 2021 and led to the arrests of abortion rights protesters in 2022 and 2023 for using megaphones. Police wielded the law once again in December 2023 against a protester using a megaphone to call for a ceasefire in Palestine. Idaho Climate Justice League, Idaho Sierra Club’s youth climate activist group who protested Idaho Power's recent attacks against rooftop solar, had to adjust protest plans in recent years to avoid legal trouble.

"Over the past year, the Climate Justice League was forced to change protest plans because the simple act of using music or a speaker to talk to a crowd could get us arrested," said Nikita Thomas, youth climate activist. "This not only feels completely unconstitutional, it has been specifically targeted at people advocating for positive change in the world. There's no reason for old laws like this to still be on the books."

“Young people are facing the frightening future of extreme wildfires, storms, and seemingly endless days over 100 degrees, while politicians and corporations keep stalling on addressing the climate crisis,” said Nicholas Thomas, another youth climate activist. “We have every right to speak out—loudly—about these issues that threaten our futures, yet this law works to silence us.”

“Boise’s noise amplification ordinance is an unconstitutional restraint on speech and severely limits the means by which the people of Boise can make their voices heard. Time and time again, we have witnessed the city of Boise use the ordinance to target and prosecute protestors just for exercising their rights to free speech under the First Amendment. The city of Boise needs to do the right thing and take accountability for how it has chilled the speech of its constituents through unconstitutional means,” said Casey Parsons, one of the attorneys and founders of the Wrest Collective working on the lawsuit.

The Idaho Climate Justice League plans to participate in the “Global Climate Strike” on April 19 at 12 p.m. in solidarity with youth around the world protesting inaction on the climate crisis. The Idaho Sierra Club is asking the court to grant an injunction before that date so the group can use a megaphone for a youth-led action in downtown Boise.

Sierra Club is represented by Wrest Collective, a community-funded, community-driven nonprofit sliding scale law firm based in Boise.