Yakima Mayor Janice Deccio’s 911 call about “far right-wing” petition signature gatherers at Walmart has received criticism. Deccio called to report petitioners’ retail disruptions, which led to several police visits.
Campaigners were gathering signatures for Washington ballot measures when the event occurred. Let’s Go Washington financed these tax, parental rights, and police efforts.
After her 911 call was released, others accused Deccio of censoring free speech and signature-gathering. The dispatcher told her that Washington state law guarantees signature collection for ballot items on private property.
After the outcry, Deccio said a constituent had alerted her of the petitioners’ presence at Walmart, calling them a “extreme right-wing group” causing consumers difficulties. She said she was concerned about their alleged harassment of consumers, not their petitions.
Deccio apologized for not waiting to hear from the police chief and acknowledged to not knowing all the legislation at the time of the conversation. She stressed that she did not want to stop the organization from lobbying.
Deccio said he got hundreds of nasty texts, emails, and voicemails, some threatening, after the event. Her spouse, a handicapped veteran with PTSD, has also been attacked, and her other councilors have received emails from outside Yakima.
Public authorities have problems in the digital era, when situations may swiftly grow and spread online, resulting in harassment and threats. In a Democratic state, central Washington’s Yakima leans Republican.
Let’s Go Washington’s efforts address police chases, carbon tax-credit trading, long-term care insurance, capital gains tax, income taxation, and parental access to instructional materials and student data.
Deccio’s mayorship and council seats in Yakima are nonpartisan, but the event has highlighted political tensions.