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Arizona group agrees to change how it protests churches helping migrants

(AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

PHOENIX — A group known to yell at asylum-seeking migrants released by immigration authorities and the church volunteers helping them has agreed to change the way they protest.

In a consent decree signed by a federal judge on Friday, members of Patriot Movement AZ agreed to not damage or step on the property of several churches in the East Valley and Phoenix that take in and assist migrant families.

The group can continue to videotape and take photos as long as it’s done at least 50 feet away from the churches. But its members cannot accuse church staff and volunteers of engaging in human trafficking, sex trafficking or harboring fugitives by helping migrant families.

Additionally, Patriot Movement AZ must pay $750 to the churches.

Larry Wulkan, a Phoenix attorney representing the churches, said his clients are “thrilled” with the agreement.

He said members of the Patriot Movement AZ “threated, intimated and harassed church volunteers who were helping families lawfully in the United States who were in need.”

An identical agreement was reached in September with another group called AZ Patriots.

This came after both groups were sued by the churches. According to the lawsuit, members of the groups tried to intimidate the churches to stop them from helping migrant families released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

They used megaphones and other loud devices to call the migrants criminals, told them to get out of the country and accused the church members and volunteers of trafficking. Both groups have now been barred from doing that.

Wulkan said he believes the agreement signed by both groups “strikes a balance between stopping harassment and intimidation and protecting the First Amendment rights of those who want to lawfully protest.”

“Our clients were always focused on stopping intimidation and harassment at churches,” he said. “Their efforts were never aimed at chilling free speech.”

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