RATHDRUM – Christa Thompson likes the Tom Petty song, “I Won’t Back Down.”
Because she said she’s not backing down, even after being cited by Rathdrum Police on Friday for holding a yard sale they said was in violation of Gov. Brad Little’s stay-home order.
“I complied to everything they asked me to do,” she said Monday, as people milled about the front yard of her Colorado Street home. “I never broke any laws.”
Thompson and husband Peter continued with their yard sale just off Highway 41, and attracted not only customers, but support from passersby who honked their horns.
On a sunny afternoon, the Thompsons were selling items from a large collection of household goods and miscellaneous items that came from a late relative’s storage units.
Christa said they were not concerned that police would return.
“I’m not worried at all. I have a great team of supporters,” she said, adding that a Boise lawyer offered his services pro bono. “Because what they did was against the Constitution.”
Earlier in the day, Christa Thompson was joined by about 25 people as she took part in a one-hour protest in front of the Rathdrum Police station.
They wrote messages in chalk on the sidewalk, including “Respect Our Free & Liberty It’s Yours Too,” “My Rights are not granted by a Little Governor!” and “#Common Sense” and “Tyranny.”
In a press release issued Friday, Rathdrum Police Chief Tomi McLean outlined their timeline of what happened:
Officers were on scene on April 9 when the owner asked if the yard sale was in violation of the governor’s orders. The officer educated the homeowner that the yard sale was in violation of the governor’s stay-at-home-order, and they were admonished not to have the yard sale. A copy of the governor’s order was given at this time.
On April 10, a second officer reported that the homeowner will remove the yard sale signs and that they were sorting items in the yard and not having a yard sale.
On April 13, a posting in Craigslist stated that the homeowners were having a yard sale at their residence. An officer approached the family and reminded them that they were in violation of the governor’s order. He then issued them a written warning.
On Friday, Rathdrum Police returned to the home and issued a citation.
“A garage sale/yard sale is not an essential business and should not be open for business,” the release said.
Violations of the order are misdemeanors punishable by a six-month jail sentence or a $1,000 fine. She is scheduled to appear in district court on May 8.
Christa Thompson said she called police before holding the sale. She said she explained a relative had passed away and they could not afford to continue making payments on several storage units.
Monday, she said they had a large family to support and needed to sell the items to buy groceries and pay bills.
She said she was told it would be OK, just keep people at a distance from each other. Days later, she said police told her to remove her yard sale signs, and returned again and said some of the items were spilling into the street and needed to be moved to the backyard.
She told police she would do her best.
A few days later, police returned and gave her a ticket.
Monday, an American flag waved in the wind, next to a sign that read “Honk for freedom” on one side and “Thank you 4 UR Support,” on the other. Another sign urged people to stand up for their rights and reminded then, “You have a voice.”
Christa Thompson said she is not trying to undermine or be unsympathetic toward those battling the coronavirus.
“I pray for those who have been affected,” she said.
But she said she would not back down from holding a yard sale.
“This is my right,” she said.
“I’m not breaking any laws and I asked before I started. I’m just out here trying to get these storage units cleaned out.”
She said another truckload of stuff was due to arrive and the yard sale might continue throughout the week.
“We’re almost done,” she said.
Peter Thompson referred to the citation as “ridiculous.”
“I’m not running a business here. All I’m doing is trying to get rid of some stuff,” he said.
Further, he said he’s not breaking the governor’s stay-home order.
“I’m not making the people come out here an buy the stuff. It’s all their choice.”
Peter Thompson pointed out that Kootenai County has about 50 cases of coronavirus and the stay-home order has gone on too long.
“It’s time to open up the businesses,” he said.
Like his wife, Peter Thompson was not worried police would return.
“I doubt they’ll come back,” he said.
Scott, a neighbor who declined to give his last name, supported the Thompsons. He said people go shopping just to get out of the house during the government-ordered lockdown, and decided to stop at the yard sale to buy a few things, just as they would if they went to the store.
“They have a lot of stuff, it’s got to go,” he said.
Another man who stopped at the yard sale would only give his name as “Pappa.” He said he and his wife were passing by, saw it, and came back.
“I’m good with it,” he said. “There’s not an issue. If I had that kind of stuff and I wanted to get rid of it, and people could use it, I’d sell it.”
The Rathdrum Police station doors on Main Street were locked Monday afternoon and an email sent to a Rathdrum official seeking comment was not answered.
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