Phoenix--Out-of-state activists from a group calling itself "By Any Means Necessary" (BAMN) are interfering with the right of Arizona voters to place an initiative on the November ballot prohibiting racial preferences in government education, employment, and contracting.
The group has posted numerous videos documenting its harassment of petition gatherers and voters signing petitions on YouTube.com. At least two videos indicate that the group has obtained signed petitions that were intended to be filed with the Secretary of State to qualify the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative (ACRI) for the ballot.
"These activists have a right to try to persuade people not to sign petitions, and even to lie about the initiative, which they do," declared Clint Bolick, director of the Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation. "But the moment they hijack a petition from its intended destination, they've crossed the line by denying citizens their constitutional right to petition the government."
Like most initiatives, the backers of ACRI employ paid circulators who collect signatures for multiple ballot measures. The YouTube videos show BAMN activists telling prospective signers that the initiative is backed and funded by the Ku Klux Klan, disrupting signature gathering, trying to convince a signature gatherer to turn over petitions, and waving copies of petitions they have obtained.
Today, BAMN reportedly blocked access to a public building where petition gathers were attempting to deliver signatures to initiative sponsors. "These people are not interested in reasoned debate," Bolick added. "Their name says it all."
Similar initiatives previously have appeared on the ballot in three states--California, Washington, and Michigan--and have passed by large and increasing margins in all three. BAMN actively opposed the initiative in Michigan. The leading opposition group in Arizona is called "Protect Arizona's Freedom," headed by state Representative Kyrsten Sinema, a coalition that includes such organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union. "We call upon those who oppose the initiative to join us in condemning these outrageous tactics that violate the civil rights of Arizonans," Bolick declared.
The Goldwater Institute has documented dozens of racial preference policies in Arizona and will host a debate on the initiative in early September.