300 people called dispatch after Meridian playground arrest — some with insults, threats
Nicole Blanchard, Idaho Statesman
BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — After a woman’s arrest at a Meridian playground went viral on social media last month, Ada County’s emergency dispatch center was flooded with hundreds of calls — some supportive of the Meridian Police Department, but many critical and, in some cases, threatening or crass, according to public records reviewed by the Idaho Statesman.
Sara Walton Brady, 40, was arrested and charged with one count of trespassing after she and several other people brought their children to play on closed playground equipment at Julius Kleiner Park on April 21.
The playground, like others in the Treasure Valley, was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic and roped off with “no trespassing” tape. Videos of Brady’s arrest were shared widely on social media, and some organizations, including the Idaho Freedom Foundation and 3% of Idaho, encouraged their followers to call the Meridian Police Department and “tell them how you feel” about the arrest. (The Idaho Freedom Foundation later deleted its Facebook video.)
Plenty of people did just that. Ada County dispatch, which handles 911 and non-emergency calls for all first responder agencies in the county, received more than 300 calls about the arrest on the day of and the day following the incident. According to dispatch call logs, about 70 of the callers had Idaho area codes, but the majority came from out of state, including places like New Jersey, Texas, Arizona and California.
A man calling from a Sacramento area code even told dispatch he “hopes that we get flooded with calls.”
A handful of callers directly referenced the video, dispatchers’ notes showed. Others asserted that Brady’s arrest went against the U.S. Constitution. Many more requested to speak with Meridian Police or to file complaints, calling the arrest “horrific” or stating they were “disgusted” by it.
Some callers cursed at dispatchers or called them names, like “scum of the Earth.” Dispatch notes for one call simply read: “potty mouthed Texan.” Another “told me I should quit my job because that cop is an idiot and a Democrat.”
A caller with a Pennsylvania area code “advised we are all ‘Nazi fu**s,’ ” dispatch notes said.
The Nazi comparisons became a theme.
One man said he “is really concerned with our country and the police department is overthrowing us,” according to call logs. “When a mother is arrested in the park with her children, it reminds the calling party of Nazi Germany. ‘I’m literally afraid they will come to my door and kill me.’ ”
Another person called “looking for the head Nazi.” A caller from Michigan asked: “Is this the Nazi police department? We live in America.”
In some cases, the abuse was so bad that dispatchers disconnected the calls. One man called repeatedly from a Michigan number and “made threatening statements towards dispatch.” He was told he would be charged with harassment if he continued to call.
Several others made threatening statements. An anonymous caller with a Nevada area code said, “You people need to be strung up in trees and KILLED for treason. This is treason you f*cking idiots.”
An Idaho caller warned of “a mob of people from Emmett” who would be going to the arresting officer’s home, as well as Gov. Brad Little’s home, after the caller texted out their home addresses. A Nevada caller “advised we are little rodents and they are watching us,” one dispatcher noted.
A caller who identified as a member of the 3% of Idaho said: “It’s time to choose a side. We can’t stand what you people do. We will make you abide by the Constitution.”
At least two callers invoked conspiracy theories, with one telling dispatch he’d like to speak to the police to explain “the coronavirus is not real, and it is all a scam by the government.” Another called the situation around Brady’s arrest “the mark of the beast” and referenced an unsubstantiated theory that Bill Gates is using coronavirus as a cover to implant brain chips into people.
There were also several people calling to complain whose dispatch notes denoted that they were “friendly” or otherwise kind. There were also several dozen people who called in support of the arresting officer, Meridian Police and the dispatchers they spoke with. Many said police were “professional.”
One man told dispatch he would reach out on Facebook to buy the department beers. (That was not the same man who started a successful GoFundMe campaign to buy beers for the department.)
“There are people behind you all the way — more than the people that are against you,” one caller said.
The Ada County Sheriff’s Office, which oversees dispatch, declined to comment on the calls.