An Arizona group that was accused of harassing and intimidating churches and pastors helping immigrants has agreed to stop their actions and pay damages, according to a judge’s order.
The Patriot Movement AZ and four of its members agreed to a consent decree very similar to one reached in September 2019 with the AZ Patriots, a splinter group also accused of harassment.
At that time, PMAZ co-founder Lesa Antone said she no longer protested outside churches but supported the rights of others to do so and disagreed with the legal agreement.
“I see this as people giving up their First Amendment rights. My rights are not for sale,” she told CNN in September.
CNN left messages for Antone and her lawyer on Friday but have not heard back.
In the new agreement, Antone and three others agree to stay away from five churches in the Phoenix metropolitan area and pay $750 in damages.
They, as well as their organization Patriot Movement AZ, and the AZ Patriots splinter group, were sued after actions by the groups caused members of the churches to say they feared for their lives and safety.
The groups had yelled at church members and some of the undocumented migrants and asylum-seekers the churches were trying to help, and it was alleged they were behind threatening phone calls.
Pastor Angel Campos, who was one of those suing the groups, said on Friday he felt safer with the agreement.
“I finally have some peace of mind knowing that they have agreed not to come back, but it does not erase what happened to us and the fear that we lived through,” Campos, pastor of Iglesia Monte Vista, said in a statement.
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.
The SPLC celebrated the consent decree.
“We hope that this settlement sends a message to hate groups and extremists who target people because of the color of their skin or immigration status,” said Scott McCoy, interim deputy legal director for the SPLC in a statement. “People who engage in this type of action will be held accountable.”