A Washington mayor said she’s being harassed after audio from her 911 call to report a group of “far right-wing” petition signature gatherers at Walmart surfaced online.
“There’s some far right-wing petitioners at Walmart and they don’t—they’re not leaving,” Yakima Mayor Janice Deccio can be heard saying in a 911 call from Sept. 3. “Walmart has asked them repeatedly to do so, and the police have not taken them off the premises.”
Activists were gathering signatures on six Washington ballot initiatives relating to taxes, parental rights and police pursuits over the Labor Day weekend. The initiatives are funded by a group called Let’s Go Washington, which did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
A recording of Deccio’s 911 call was first shared on YouTube by conservative commentator Glen Morgan last week.
In the call, the dispatcher and a supervisor can be heard telling Deccio that the petitioners have a right to gather signatures on private property under state law and that Walmart would need to obtain a court order to stop them.
“Gathering signatures for ballot measure petitions is a constitutionally guaranteed practice in the State of Washington,” according to the Washington Secretary of State’s office, which acknowledges the law does not clearly spell out to what extent businesses or other private property owners can exclude petitioners.
Deccio is expected to address the issue at Tuesday night’s Yakima City Council meeting and provided Fox News with a copy of her statement. In it, she says a constituent told her “an extreme right-wing group was petitioning at Walmart and creating problems for shoppers.”
“I don’t care, nor even know what they were petitioning about, just that he told me they were harassing shoppers and that the manager had called the police numerous times during the week after she had asked the petitioners to move from the entrance of the store,” Deccio wrote.
Walmart declined to answer questions about the incident or its policies on signature gathering efforts. A spokesperson for the Yakima Police Department confirmed the 911 call and told Fox News after publication that officers will not remove signature gatherers from business property without a court order.
“Complaints about other criminal activity are investigated and addressed accordingly,” the spokesperson wrote. “Whether or not signature gatherers have a right of access on private property is determined by a balancing test of three factors: the nature and use of the property; the impact of the decision upon the effectiveness of the initiative or referendum; and the scope of the invitation that the owner of the property has extended. Decisions are made based on the facts of each individual situation.”
“I admit I was unaware of all the nuances of the law at that time, though, and, in hindsight, I could have waited to hear from the chief,” Deccio wrote in her statement. “No one told the group they couldn’t petition, and it was certainly not my intention to stop them.”
Since the initial incident, Deccio said “numerous credible local people” have told her the petitioner’s behavior was aggressive, even threatening.
Deccio said she has received hundreds of harassing texts, emails and voicemails since the 911 call was released without redacting her phone number.
“I was just wondering how a beautiful face could be such a liberal c— to like, stop democracy,” a man can be heard saying in one voicemail Deccio shared with Fox News.
Deccio said people are also harassing her husband, “who is a disabled veteran with PTSD,” and flooding her fellow counselors with emails, the bulk of which are coming from outside of Yakima, a city of fewer than 100,000 residents.
Yakima County lies in central Washington and has not voted for a Democratic president in at least four decades.
The initiatives sponsored by Let’s Go Washington include:
Deccio became a city council member last year and was nominated to serve as mayor by her fellow councilors, according to the Yakima Herald-Republic. The mayor and council positions are nonpartisan.