A Washington state mayor was shocked to see conservatives gathering petition signatures at a local Walmart, so she did what any reasonable person would do. Yakima Mayor Janice Deccio called 911.
Not only did she show her complete ignorance of the law, she labeled them “far right-wing” because she disagreed with their causes.
In the Sept. 3 call to emergency services, Deccio reported the situation. “There are some far right-wing petitioners at Walmart, and they don’t — they’re not leaving. Walmart has asked them repeatedly to do so, and the police have not taken them off the premises.”
The 911 dispatcher was far better versed on First Amendment rights than the Yakima mayor. The dispatcher and a supervisor informed her that the petitioners are protected under Washington law to gather signatures on private property.
Deccio was informed that Walmart would need a court order to stop the activity.
Washington’s Secretary of State’s Office confirmed that gathering signatures for ballot measure petitions is expressly protected activity under state law.
Yakima, Wash mayor calls 911 on 'far-right-wing petitioners at Walmart' gathering signatures for conservative ballot initiativeshttps://t.co/tMktmaAAGW
— Ari Hoffman (@thehoffather) September 20, 2023
The initiatives the petitioners supported included a rollback on restrictions on police pursuit, lowering the state’s carbon tax, giving employers an opt-out of the state long-term care insurance program, and allowing parents to review instructional materials and school records of their students.
Tuesday Deccio reiterated her belief that Walmart shoppers were subject to petitioners from the “far right.” She told the Yakima City Council meeting that “an extreme right-wing group was petitioning at Walmart and creating problems for shoppers.”
The mayor’s 911 call went public without her phone number being redacted. She claimed this led to receiving hundreds of abusive phone calls and texts.
Another Democrat, former congressional candidate Doug White, jumped into the fray. He posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that there were “illegal petitioners” outside the local Walmart.
White complained that the police department asserted it was “their constitutional right.” He asked his social media followers, “Do you agree? What will you do about it?”
Local Yakima leaders apparently need to brush up on their knowledge of Washington state law and the First Amendment.