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A video of a mother arrested in Idaho at a playground that was closed under stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic has quickly gone viral, with far-right social media accounts rallying around her.
But the mother, 40-year-old Sara Walton Brady, wasn't on the playground simply so her kids could play. Brady is an anti-vaccine activist with connections to several far-right groups in Idaho, and she was participating in an organized protest on Tuesday against the governor's stay-at-home order. A group of people removed police caution tape to enter the closed playground, the Idaho Statesman reported, and Brady refused police requests to leave before she was arrested.
Brady was charged with misdemeanor trespassing and released later on Tuesday, the Idaho Statesman reported. Meridian police did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Brady could not be reached for comment.
“I didn’t wake up today thinking, I’m taking my kids to the park to get arrested — but when tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty!” Brady said to supporters following her release. “We have a duty to stand up to tyranny, or we’re gonna lose our republic.”
This protest, which was livestreamed on Facebook, was a follow-up to a large rally against stay-at-home restrictions organized by a coalition of radical groups. They include the anti-vaccine group Health Freedom Alliance, the gun rights group Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, and the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a far-right group that wields significant power in the state.
Brady became a symbol to the far right almost immediately after her arrest. Alex Jones’ Infowars quickly picked up the story, and it went viral across far-right social media. In Idaho, the Second Amendment Alliance organized a rally against her arrest at city hall on Tuesday evening, and then her supporters continued their protests outside the home of the officer who arrested her, which was guarded by four police officers. Video shows Ammon Bundy, who led the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016, joining that demonstration.
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Across the state, several businesses have either opened or announced plans to reopen, despite the lack of an official state plan. On its Facebook page, one bar in Nampa, Idaho, declared: “We truly do not care if you disagree. We refuse to be one of the small businesses that becomes extinct due to government overreach.”
Just weeks ago, Blaine County, Idaho, had one of the highest per capita case and mortality rates from the coronavirus in the country. Until last week, testing in North Idaho had been so difficult to access that one county was only able to confirm 22 cases, 11 of whom had died, suggesting there were many more people who had not been diagnosed. Idaho's total count of COVID-19 cases has been declining, but concern remains that a rapid reopening will spark new breakouts of the disease.
Opponents of public health measures are continuing to use strident rhetoric in Idaho. Video of Brady’s arrest shows her supporters accusing police of behaving like Nazis; state Rep. Heather Scott recently called the governor “little Hitler.”
“That’s no different than Nazi Germany,” she said in an interview posted online, “where you had government telling people, ‘You are an essential worker or a nonessential worker,’ and the nonessential workers got put on a train.”