Meridian, ID – An anti-vaccine activist and wife of a Boise police detective issued an apology in front of the Meridian Police Department on Friday in the form of a letter to the officer who had arrested her for trespassing at a park that was closed due to the pandemic.
The mayor of Meridian closed playgrounds and outdoor exercise equipment on March 21 out of an abundance of caution after it was discovered that the virus could live on plastic and other playground surfaces for up to three days, the Idaho Statesman reported.
Officers have routinely enforced trespassing laws at parks, even before the coronavirus-related closures.
Meridian police said they received several calls at about 4 p.m. on April 21 reporting that a group of adults and children were gathered in the closed playground at Julius M. Kleiner Memorial Park, according to the Daily Mail.
The metal signage and caution tape that had been wrapped around the playground to mark it closed had been removed, the Idaho Statesman reported.
Officers responded to the park and asked the families who were using it to leave.
Cell phone videos filmed by some of the parents who were there showed the officers and park director explained repeatedly that the families were welcome to use the green, grassy areas of the park that were still open, but could not continue to use the playground equipment.
Sara Walton Brady, a well-known anti-vaccine activist, refused to comply with the officers’ and park director’s instructions.
Walton Brady, who is the wife of a Boise Police Detective, repeatedly challenged the police officers and insisted it was the right of the adults and children trespassing to play in the public park, the Daily Mail reported.
But the incident wasn’t a random group of parents who were having a playdate as they tried to claim when police arrived.
It was a rally organized by a conservative group, the Idaho Freedom Foundation, as a protest of Idaho Governor Brad Little’s stay-at-home order, the Daily Mail reported.
The officers repeatedly asked the trespassers to leave the park but the women who circled them with cell phones aloft and filming weren’t going anywhere, the videos showed.
Finally, an officer had had enough and, after Walton Brady told the officer to arrest her and put her hands behind her back, he put her in handcuffs and took her way.
Walton Brady was transported to the Ada County Jail and booked for trespassing, the Idaho Statesman reported.
Online court records show she was released later on Tuesday night on $300 bond, and is scheduled to appear in court on May 29.
After she was released, Walton Brady was greeted by a group of supporters outside City Hall, the Idaho Statesman reported.
“I’m going to fight this,” Walton Brady vowed through a megaphone. “I was in a public park I pay taxes on.”
The Boise detective’s wife called the police wrong and the government tyrannical, the Idaho Statesman reported.
“Please let this inspire you,” Walton Brady addressed her supporters. “Please, let’s continue to band together as freedom lovers, and let’s stop this tyranny that’s occurring.”
After Walton Brady was arrested, a group of protesters showed up at the home of the Meridian police officer who had arrested her, the Idaho Statesman reported.
The group of about 40 people was led by Ammon Bundy, who led a 41-day occupation of federal land in Oregon in 2016.
Shortly after that, counter-protesters showed up at Walton Brady’s home to protest her treatment of the Meridian police officer, and that’s when things got sticky for her, KBOI reported.
Meridian police confirmed that Walton Brady had to call the Meridian police and ask for patrols to come deal with the protesters at her home, and they asked the public to stop harassing the woman on their official Facebook page.
“We understand these are trying times,” the department posted late Wednesday night. “However we have seen several posts listing Sara Brady’s home address who was arrested yesterday. Her family has asked for extra patrol which we are providing. Please stay away from her home, this just takes away from our abilities to protect our community.”
In the meantime, an all-out social media war raged between neighbors, communities, and friends over Walton Brady’s treatment of the Meridian police officer.
By Friday afternoon, Walton Brady appeared to have changed her tune altogether, KBOI reported.
She staged a press conference in front of the Meridian Police Department and read an apology letter to the police officer whom she had argued with and acknowledged that her actions had had a very negative snowball effect on her community.
“I never thought a knee-jerk comment made to you out of frustration, by me wanting my kids to play at a park, would create such a divide amongst our friends, family, community, the state of Idaho, our nation and the world,” Walton Brady read. “A divide that seems impossible for me to mend.”
She claimed that the signage and caution tape had already been removed when she arrived at the playground and said she wished she had never taken the children out for a playdate the day she was arrested, KBOI reported.
“The reality of the situation is that I have been stuck at home for the last five weeks and I, as the rest of America also, watched this great nation and our God-given rights crumble before my eyes,” Walton Brady said. “I am on edge with the constant stress of children and trying to tend to their needs of being bored and cooped up along with other responsibilities. However, this is not an excuse for my behavior and my part in what happened.”
She said she wasn’t involved with sending protesters to the arresting officer’s house and said she had contacted the organizations responsible and asked them to stop and never do that again.
“While I disagree with the current restrictions being put in place that are restricting our freedoms – I never intended or thought me going to the park on a sunny day with my kids would evolve to the point that it would involve the Meridian Police Department, your fellow officers, you, or your family,” Walton Brady said. “If I had I would have never attended the park that day.”
The Boise detective’s wife also claimed she hadn’t gone to the park out of protest on the day she was arrested. However, after she volunteered to be handcuffed in the video, Walton Brady told a friend to call a specific person at one of the organizations that had organized the protest.