Interview

‘A Little Too Soviet’: Grandsons Of Idaho Pastor Slapped With 13 Criminal Charges For Protesting Lockdowns With Stickers

   DailyWire.com
City Hall building in downtown Moscow Idaho
Don & Melinda Crawford/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Two brothers, aged 18 and 14, and their father, 42-year-old Nathan Wilson, face multiple misdemeanor charges for mocking their town’s strict lockdown tactics with stickers.

Wilson, a bestselling author and television producer from Moscow, Idaho, faces an “aiding and abetting” charge for having made the stickers — which his sons distributed throughout the town. He explained in an interview with The Daily Wire why he believes city officials are targeting both him and his sons for political and religious reasons.

“A Little Too Soviet For My Taste”

Douglas Wilson, Nathan’s father, is the 67-year-old senior pastor of Christ Church, an evangelical congregation in Moscow, a university town of about 25,000 people approximately 80 miles south of Spokane, Washington. Christ Church made national news last September when local police arrested three people and cited five others for attending their “peaceful protest” against Mayor Bill Lambert’s repeatedly extended public health order.

As The Daily Wire reported at the time, the protest consisted of about 20 minutes of psalm singing in front of city hall, where city officials, upon learning of the planned event, had arranged small yellow dots six feet apart as guidance for the participants.

Gabriel Rench, a deacon at Christ Church who was running for county commissioner at the time, was among those hauled away from the outdoor church service to the county jail, ostensibly for standing too close to his friend, not wearing a mask, and refusing to show his identification. In January, a county magistrate judge tossed the case against him without comment, but Rench explained during a recent interview with The Daily Wire that the overwhelmingly liberal community of Moscow still remained overtly hostile to him.

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The incident at the outdoor worship event incensed members of the church, including Gabriel’s brother, Aaron. “Those arrests really pushed me over the brink,” Aaron said in a recent press release. “Watching my brother being cuffed at a psalm sing was rough. It’s still hard for me to comprehend that our local police department would do something so clearly unconstitutional and illegal, no matter how much the city council wanted them to.”

Aaron, a literary agent as well as a television and film producer, is business partners with Nathan Wilson. “My business partner’s brother gets arrested at a psalm sing,” Nathan said. “Aaron and I both felt the need to do something. We talked about using our resources to sue the city, but we settled on something more low-key. Funnier. Our company, Gorilla Poet Productions, produced protest stickers instead.”

“We had a desire to protest police tactics and enforcement tactics that were illegal,” Wilson said, claiming the local police often “arrest first and then figure out the legalities later.” Not wanting to contribute to the already tense powder keg their small town had become, however, Wilson explained how he and Rench instead decided to produce about 650 protest stickers, some of which read, “Soviet Moscow.” Others made fun of the town’s mask mandate slogan, reading: “Soviet Moscow — Enforced Because We Care.”

“We had a pressure-cooked town with a mask ordinance, and we had police enforcement that was getting really jackbooted, really Soviet,” Wilson recounted. He said the city council encouraged residents to “snitch” on fellow citizens by calling a hotline to report alleged violations of COVID-19 protocol. Moscow’s Latah County, which has a population of more than 40,000, has had a total of 2,772 COVID-19 cases and eight deaths as of Thursday, according to The New York Times.

“A little too Soviet for my taste,” Wilson said. “So we made the Soviet Moscow protest stickers.”

“It’s About The Politics”

Police were apparently tipped off when Wilson’s 18-year-old son, Rory, was seen going around Moscow with his 14-year-old brother slapping the stickers on city poles. “That’s when cops got upset,” Wilson said. “But they were non-damaging vinyl stickers that were going up in protest of police enforcement of the mask order—you know, threatening people with jail time, et cetera, arresting people at a psalm sing.”

In an encounter similar to the interaction worshippers at the psalm sing had, the Moscow police officers reportedly approached Wilson’s sons and demanded identification. Rory, his father explained, was well-versed in the state law that does not require Idaho residents to identify themselves to law enforcement if they are not driving.

“He was correct on the law,” Wilson said. “The [police] were incorrect on the law and they then began to interrogate him in handcuffs.” Wilson went on to claim that Rory was not read his Miranda rights as police handcuffed him and placed him on the concrete sidewalk. The officers also allegedly pulled Rory’s juvenile brother aside and interrogated him without a parent, guardian, or lawyer present.

Wilson, who was asleep at the time, received a phone call from a police officer to attend to his sons. The officer, Wilson remembers, “was very serious, like something enormous has happened. I was relieved when he told me my boys were okay. They were only a couple blocks from my house, so I got there quick.”

The first thing the officer told him, Wilson said, was “that he does not agree with the messaging.”

“I told him that I supported and understood the messaging,” Wilson continued. “After that, he refused to allow me to approach my minor son, where he was being interrogated on the hood of a cop car. I tried to keep things friendly, to diffuse the crackle in the air, but the atmosphere remained pretty strained. I was proud of my boys. It is important to stand up against men who begin to abuse power, even when that abuse is small, and especially when those men are carrying badges and guns.”

“It’s about the politics,” Wilson asserted. “It’s about the messaging. They don’t like being protested. They want to have absolute power and they don’t want their power to be questioned in any way. So if you question it, you’re going to end up in handcuffs on the sidewalk. Your rights are gone.”

“No property was damaged, nothing of any kind,” Wilson added, noting how the stickers were designed for outdoor use and easily removable. “Nothing criminal happened at all, except for the way the police made the arrests and mistreated the suspects and disappeared evidence and everything else.” He maintains that police dash-cam and body-cam footage of the incident with his sons has “magically disappeared.”

Since a March 1 press release exposed the incident with the Wilson boys, Moscow police have seemingly begun cracking down extensively on all stickers around town. On March 2 alone, they responded to four sticker incidents, which were cited as “malicious mischief,” according to the police daily activity log.

The city ordinance which the officers reportedly referenced against his sons has never been enforced and did not even apply to political speech, Wilson said. “They continue to behave in fundamentally illegal ways,” he said of the Moscow police.

The Moscow chief of police did not respond to The Daily Wire’s request for comment on such allegations.

“While the Moscow Police Department now has five illegal arrests on their slate instead of just the three psalm sing arrests, they really aren’t the root problem,” Wilson clarified. “The mayor and the city council have put them in an almost impossible position throughout this endlessly extended mask mandate. There are some great people in our department, and I feel bad that they’ve been forced into their current role.”

Wilson’s boys were allowed to return home that night without citations, but police later showed up to deliver criminal charges against Wilson and his sons at the behest of city attorney Liz Warner, who was the same city official who went after Gabriel Rench.

Warner, whom Wilson described to Faithwire as “very hostile toward conservative Christians,” moved to charge Rory Wilson with 13 counts of posting signs or fliers on poles without permission, each count of which carries a potential prison sentence of six months. Latah County also decided to charge Rory’s little brother as a juvenile and even roped in their father for good measure because he designed the offending stickers.

“I guess they want me on misdemeanor conspiracy to commit sticker or something like that,” Wilson said.

Warner did not respond to The Daily Wire’s request for comment.

“It has been extremely disappointing to watch local government charge these two boys with a criminal offense,” said attorney Sam Creason, who is representing the Wilsons. “From what I have seen, the young men have impeccable reputations for leadership and respect amongst people who personally know them. While some may not like what was posted, or how it was posted, the constitutional right to free speech prohibits the government from using ambiguous and unused ordinances to punish opposition.”

“We are confident that the appropriate court will dismiss the charges based upon both the law and the facts in this case. Hopefully, we can reach that result without too much more heartache or attention,” Creason added.

“Depressing And Astounding”

Nathan Wilson believes his family is being harassed at least in part because of his father’s prominence in the community. “My father especially is known locally as a conservative Christian pastor, so he is seen as the enemy,” he said. “So for progressives, he’s a very, very backwards, Bible-believing minister.”

Wilson offers the fact that he is also being prosecuted for his sons’ stickers as evidence that local officials have a particular animus against his family. “The fact that they’re going after me, I think I’m more of a prize than my sons because I’m a generation closer to the minister they hate,” he said.

Nathan’s father, Douglas Wilson, is a prolific and outspoken author who has already written extensively on his personal blog in the past few days about the ordeal regarding his son and grandsons.

“We suspected that a story like this would have some feet, and so it has proved,” Douglas Wilson wrote. “Moscow, Idaho has once again shouldered its way to the front of the crowd in a desperate attempt to remain a national laughingstock. We are being governed in a pretty tedious way — by martinets who are not very competent.”

Reminding his readers that city officials were left with egg on their face regarding the psalm sing at city hall, Wilson offered the debacle afflicting his family as an example of the “Christian case for the necessity of a guarantee of free speech.”

“The foundational reason for insisting on free speech has to do with the Christian doctrine of the nature of man,” Wilson continued. “Every restriction that is placed on men is a restriction that must be enforced by men. And the men who enforce are almost always a greater hazard to our liberties than the man in the street who wants to pop off about something. The men who enforce any restrictions on free speech have the same problem of sin that the general populace does, and in their case this sinfulness is combined with political power.”

Nathan Wilson, who grew up in Moscow, reflected soberly on how much his hometown has changed since the pandemic. “It’s really been kind of a depressing and astounding experience for me because I grew up in this small town.”

Likening Moscow to Mayberry, Wilson remembered that even his old babysitter is on the town’s police force.

“And it’s just kind of sad to discover where we are now and what all this COVID tension and all these mask orders and everything else have turned us into.”

Related: EXCLUSIVE: Church Deacon Arrested For Outdoor Worship Service Discusses Victory Against Idaho

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