Boise & Garden City

Meridian protesters support man who says he was wrongfully arrested

Protesters came out in support Saturday of a Meridian man who said he was wrongfully arrested.

Matthew Townsend had been flying a sign that said, "Taxes don't equal liberty" on Jan. 30 at the intersection of Franklin Road and Main Street when an officer approached him, Townsend said.

"He tried to get me to agree that I was (obstructing traffic) and I didn't (agree)," Townsend said.

The officer didn't charge him with anything at that moment, Townsend said, so Townsend began walking away. Then other officers arrived on scene and Townsend was charged with resisting or obstructing an officer.

"He was stopped for being in the public roadway when it said 'do not walk,'" said Deputy Chief of Police Tracy Basterrechea. "That's why the initial contact was made."

The day before his first court date for that charge, Townsend wrote a post on his Facebook page that landed him a felony charge for threatening a witness. He tagged Meridian Police Department and an officer in the post and said he would lead a "shame campaign" against the department if his case wasn't dismissed.

"If my case isn't dismissed tomorrow upon my request, I will begin a non-violent and legal shame campaign that will be remembered," he said, among other things, in the Feb. 18 Facebook post.

Townsend's demands coupled with the specific tagging of an officer is what led to the felony charge, Basterrechea said.

"He made specific demands that the charges be dropped," Basterrechea said.

After the felony charge Townsend's friends got together a group of people to protest at the site he was initially arrested. About 15 people held signs at the spot and called for a dismissal of Townsend's charges Saturday.

Townsend's preliminary hearing for the felony charge is set for April 15.