By Peter and Roxeanne
Breaking news from Norwood, Massachusetts: John Rogers’ campaign manager and parents threatened, intimidated, and sought police action against two women distributing voter guides on a public sidewalk.
Every election cycle, Catholic Citizenship, a non-partisan group of lay Catholics, distributes voter guides. Yesterday and today, the group handed out the flyers in front of churches around the Commonwealth. One voter guide had the 12th Norfolk state representative race on one side (incumbent John Rogers against Jim Stanton), with the Elizabeth Warren/Scott Brown positions on the reverse. The state rep voter guide may be found here. The information is culled from the candidates’ responses to questions, statements they have made, and, as applicable, votes cast. Although John Rogers’ staff and parents have refused to cite any misleading or incorrect information on the guides, they strongly oppose their distribution.
Elaine, a woman in her mid-sixties, and Bridget, a young attorney, stood in the public parking lot outside of St. Catherine of Siena parish in Norwood, Massachusetts, on the corner of Washington St. and Nahatan St., distributing the guides to passer-by.
The Harassment, Intimidation, and Police Calls by Rogers’ staff and parents
Before Bridget arrived, a man by the name of Jimmy Geraghty walked up to Elaine and said, “I’m with Bridget. May I have those?” Jimmy Geraghty is John Rogers’ campaign manager. (Two years ago, Jimmy Geraghty had harassed Bridget as she distributed the voter guides and stalked her later; he also threatened and spent three months stalking another man who distributed the guides.) Elaine trustingly turned the voter guides over to him, never to be seen again by her. (Hello, larceny by trick!)
As Bridget and Elaine stood in the public parking area across from Nahatan Street from the church, Jimmy Geraghty drove up, exited his pickup truck, and the following words were exchanged*:
The ever-so-classy lady who asked Bridget if she got her law license at the dog pound is John Rogers’ mother. The man with her is his father. Jimmy Geraghty indeed called the police; here is the photo of the police report:
Officer Daniel Leavitt arrived and spoke to Geraghty; Bridget walked up to the squad car and said, “We are handing out voter guides; we are not soliciting for donations. We are on public sidewalks, not private nor Church property. We are well within the bounds of the First Amendment [she handed over her MA bar card], and I’m an attorney; we’re being careful to operate within the bounds of the law, I do not know what we are doing wrong here.” Officer Leavitt replied that he just got there; he spoke with Geraghty and Elaine, then reported that there was no legal violation, that the women were well within their rights, and departed.
As anyone with an iota of legal knowledge can tell you, standing out on a public sidewalk distributing political information is protected under the First Amendment, and is the core of First Amendment protections. A little old lady and a young woman should not have the police sicced on them for exercising that right. Will John Rogers condemn his campaign manager’s actions? his parents’ actions?
Because his parents did indeed try to use the arm of the police to shut down Bridget and Elaine, a mere hour and a half later.
The Harassment Continues
After the next Mass, Elaine, Bridget, and Elaine’s husband, being careful to remain on on public ways, handed out the voter guides. (Again, .pdf copies, right here.) When Bridget walked onto the Washington St. sidewalks,Mrs. Rogers pulled aside a different police officer and asked him to force Bridget to stop. (Meanwhile, Geraghty and Mr. Rogers were harassing Elaine and her husband.)
Because when one police officer tells you that a few women have a First Amendment right to hand out the voter guides, you obviously try to get another officer to get a second opinion, right? That’s not harassment at all.
That wasn’t enough for the ever-so-classy Mrs. Rogers, mother to longtime incumbent John Rogers; she fetched a priest to (erroneously) claim that the church owned and controlled the public sidewalk. The priest rather viciously tore into Elaine and Bridget and said that he was instructing his parishioners to ignore the voter guide, as it was “full of lies” and “blatantly partisan”. (Yep, that voter guide that you all just downloaded.) He also said that the women had dropped off “a huge stack” of the guides inside and that such action, coupled with Mrs. Rogers’ advocacy, prompted to him to issue the warnings to his flock.
(The Department of Public Works is closed today; details about the ownership of the public sidewalk will be made available as discovered.)
A stack of voter guides? Where have we seen that before? Yep, Jimmy Geraghty tossed the stolen guides inside the church to smear Elaine and Bridget.
There is no reason to harass and taunt two women who are handing out voter guides. That is beyond the pale; it is particularly disgusting, and potentially criminal, to not once, but TWICE attempt to get the women arrested for exercising their First Amendment rights.
No politician can be responsible for the actions of his supporters, but these people are John Rogers’ own parents and his hand-picked campaign manager. Will Rogers denounce the intimidation and unlawful actions of his near and dear, or will he allow the harassment in the name of holding onto his seat? Will Rogers refuse to hire Geraghty again to run his campaign?
*Bridget mis-stated the name of the man who had been threatened and stalked last year. His last name is Smith and he witnessed some of the events of today.
Update: (DaTechGuy) Fixed the width of the video for Roxeanne, I am also sending an e-mail to the parish to confirm and inquire about the priest’s conduct in this matter.
Update 2: Correction this post was by RoxeAnne I was not there but am following up.
Update 3: Peter is contacting the Archdiocese. For the record, no individual in this scenario has a problem with the Catholic Church emphasizing that the voter guides are not produced, endorsed, or affiliated with it; however, there’s a very clear line between that and doing what the priest did, which is to say that the voter guides are blatantly partisan and that the parishioners have a duty to disregard them. It also exceeds (in my humble opinion) priestly authority to tell a young woman to stop distributing the guides on public sidewalks.
Update 4: (DTG) Talked to the Monsignor briefly (he called me just before the Scott Brown event) he says the guides were in the church and because they had the names of candidates they are not allowed, he also stated he was unaware of the specific group and as there are several pseudo-catholic groups out there could not verify they were legit. (Given some of the pseudo Catholic groups out there not an unreasonable concern)
I’m not in the habit of doubting a Monsignor of the church, but I obviously know & trust Roxeanne so I presume she stands by her story. I also trust my readers so feel free to make up your own mind. If I get any of the written questions answered or more info I’ll let you know.