Arizona group agrees to stop harassing churches helping immigrants
A group of activists has agreed to back down from its campaign of harassment against pastors and churches helping immigrants and asylum-seekers in Arizona.
The AZ Patriots organization and four of its leaders have agreed to not to trespass on church properties in the Phoenix area, according to court documents. They also agreed not to grab or touch anyone using the buildings, not to use megaphones around them and not to film the premises or those using them, among other measures.
They were sued along with the Patriot Movement AZ — from which they splintered — after the actions of the two groups caused members of churches to say they feared for their lives and safety.
The alarm peaked for Phoenix Pastor Angel Campos when he got a voice mail saying his children should be raped.
The caller has not been identified but Campos was mentioned by the groups in online postings railing against illegal immigration, along with other pastors and churches helping undocumented migrants and asylum-seekers released from government custody.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which helped the pastors sue, said threatening calls were a tactic used by groups to frighten activists and parishioners. Several anti-immigration groups in Arizona have taken videos and posted them on Facebook encouraging people to contact pastors and churches helping asylum seekers.
Face-to-face confrontations have also occurred between sometimes virulent anti-immigration groups and church leaders trying to help those seeking asylum.
Not everyone wants to abide by the agreement
The pastors and churches sued the Patriot Movement AZ and AZ Patriots groups, as well as several individuals, alleging they were “illegally intimidating, threatening, harassing” and trespassing on church property when they come to scream at immigrants being dropped off at the churches. The lawsuit was filed in June in the US District Court for the District of Arizona with the help of SPLC lawyers.
The consent decree that ends the case against the AZ Patriots specifies that four of its members would no longer make accusations that people using the church were engaged in “human trafficking or sex trafficking or harboring fugitives.” Jennifer Harrison, Michael Pavlock, Eduardo Jaime and Jeremy Bronaugh also agreed to remove any published posts making the false claims.
“We are very pleased that the court has entered an order that protects the churches, their volunteers, pastors and the people that they are assisting, who are lawfully in this country, from the harassment of AZ Patriots, Jennifer Harrison, Michael Pavlock, Eduardo Jaime and Jeremy Bronaugh,” Larry J. Wulkan, a lawyer representing the pastors and churches suing, said in a statement.
CNN has been unable to reach any of the four and they do not have a lawyer listed in court documents.
But not all those accused in the suit agreed to the terms.
The action continues against the founder of Patriot Movement AZ, Lesa Antone, another leader of the group, Russell “RJ” Jaffe and Antonio Foreman, among others.
Foreman, who according to the lawsuit has visited at least one church with the group, is alleged to be affiliated with multiple white nationalist hate groups and attended the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.
Antone told CNN on Monday: “I see this as people giving up their First Amendment rights. My rights are not for sale.”
She continued: “When the left calls me something disgusting like a Nazi or White Supremacist, I don’t like it but I support their First Amendment right of freedom of speech.”
Antone said she no longer protests outside churches but supports the rights of others to do so.