Rantz: Mayor scolded for calling 911 on ‘far right-wing’ signature gatherers
Sep 20, 2023, 7:25 PM | Updated: 8:49 pm
(Yakima City Council)
It was a jam-packed Yakima City Council on Tuesday night with residents and activists scolding the mayor for abusing the 911 call center to report conservative activists.
“There’s some far right-wing petitioners at Walmart, and they don’t — they’re not leaving,” Yakima Mayor Janice Deccio told a 911 operator on September 3, a recording first reported by activist Glen Morgan. “Walmart has asked them repeatedly to do so, and the police have not taken them off the premises.”
Deccio was smearing paid signature gatherers aiming to get six initiatives on the ballot. Some would restore parental rights, lower gas prices by ending the Democrats’ carbon tax-credit trading, and reverse the police pursuit ban. Not only were the petitioners acting lawfully while promoting mainstream views, it wasn’t an emergency and should not have resulted in a call to 911. It’s not even entirely clear if Walmart “repeatedly” asked them to leave.
Mayor Deccio defends her actions
Washington state law protected signature gatherers in this case unless they were disruptive to the business (beyond simply calling the practice of signature gathering disruptive). Tim Eyman, a conservative activist well versed in the world of signature gathering, sharply criticized Deccio.
“[The petitioners are] outside the store. It’s not blocking the entrances. It’s just giving people the opportunity to sign these petitions and that peaceful political activity is legal,” Eyman told The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “It’s legal in my hometown. it’s legal in the state of Washington. And it seems like the dispatcher knows it. The police officers know it. The sheriff knows it. But the mayor seems genuinely confused and says that it’s insane that they can’t be arrested for being out there collecting voters’ signatures. I mean, it’s just truly bizarre.”
Rather than apologize for the offensive 911 call, Deccio defended her actions at a council meeting on Tuesday night.
“It is within my purview to call 911 when I have a question. I am on the exec board of the Yak Corps, so I am aware of how the 911 system works,” Deccio said, adding it wasn’t her intent to stop signature gatherers from their job.
It’s not clear what it means that she was in her “purview” since anyone can call 911. Operators just prefer you call to report actual emergencies, not anger that conservative activists are looking for signature gathering. It’s hard to imagine Deccio reporting Planned Parenthood bothering people with pro-abortion messages. It’s equally difficult to believe she didn’t intend to stop the signature gathering.
Council colleagues and public pushback
Deccio didn’t have many fans show up Tuesday night.
Councilmember Patricia Byers called Deccio out and asked the mayor to be censured. Councilmember Holly Cousens pointed out how little Deccio knows about free speech rights.
“What does it say to our community when an elected mayor calls emergency services because she feels threatened by a citizen who is exercising his or her constitutional rights?” Cousens asked.
And residents, like Len Harden, offered harsh words.
“Although I wouldn’t like to see you removed from the council as my representative for the city, as chairman I would like to see you step down as chairman,” Harden said.
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