Members of Moscow religious group sue city and police for arrests in mask protest

Moscow police put social distancing guidelines in place, then arrested people who did not cooperate

MOSCOW, Idaho – Three people who took part in a mask demonstration last fall are suing the city of Moscow, Moscow police and others, claiming the city violated their First Amendment rights.

Gabriel Rench, Sean Bohnet and Rachel Bohnet filed a lawsuit this week in federal court. He names the city entities as defendants as well as the individual police officers, the city attorney, the city overseer and the police chief.

The lawsuit follows a demonstration in Moscow in September, where people gathered to protest an emergency warrant requiring people to wear masks in public places. The city has learned that people are planning a prayer event to protest the order to be held in the parking lot at City Hall. Moscow police said at the time that they had put in place ground markings to ensure people remained socially distanced during the event.

According to a 4 News Now report at the time, most of the so-called “Psalm Sing” followed the guidelines, but several people did not. Five people said they would not comply with the order and were cited. Rench and the Bohnets were arrested for resistance and obstruction. The charges were subsequently dropped.

PAST COVERAGE: Several cities, arrested for failing to follow the mask’s mandate during a prayer event at Moscow City Hall

According to the lawsuit, Rench and the Bohnets were arrested, jailed and prosecuted. They say the ordinance requiring social distancing and the wearing of masks made exceptions for First Amendment activities.

The lawsuit says the group had these rights violated “by law enforcement officials who knew that the main activities of political speech and the exercise of religious beliefs were exempt from prosecution under the Moscow City Code. “.

The group makes specific demands in court, including for the court to declare that their First Amendment rights have been violated; that their right to practice a religion under the Idaho code has been violated; and that their rights to the Fourth and Fifth Amendments were violated when they chose not to identify themselves at the protest.

They are asking for punitive damages and legal fees.