A leader of the movement trying to recall Mayor Sam Allevato has filed a police report against the mayor and two other councilmen for interfering with petitioners’ attempts to collect signatures.
John Perry said he and others from Residents for Honest Government were in front of Vons, soliciting signatures for the recall petitions, when Allevato, Larry Kramer and John Taylor along with a few others came up to their table, passing out their own fliers and disparaging the pro-recall folks.
“John Taylor and Sam were standing first about 10 feet from us and then moved so that they were directly behind our petition table,” Perry said. They stayed for a little more than two hours.
“They said, ‘Don’t sign these petitions; these people are bad people,’” Perry said. “I feel people were being intimidated so I went down today [Monday] and made a report.”
Deputies told him they would not be pursuing an investigation unless there were any physical altercations, Perry said. But he says state law is very clear.He cited Elections Code 18620 which states anyone stopping “the circulation of the initiative or referendum measure or recall petition, or perform[ing] any act that will prevent or aid in preventing the … recall petition from qualifying as an initiative or referendum measure” can be fined up to $5,000 or be sentenced to 16 months in state prison.
However, Allevato said he was just exercising his own First Amendment rights to free speech.
“I have as much right to the public space in front of Von's as Mr. Perry. After all, this is America where divergent opinions on issues are welcomed,” Allevato said. “I was presenting my view on this frivolous recall as was he. No intimidation, just talking to shoppers and handing out information.”
Allevato said he got permission to be there from Vons, who told him where to stand and post signs. He called Perry’s police report a “totally ridiculous complaint.”
Kramer turned the table on Perry, saying “it sounds like Mr. Perry is trying to intimidate me from exercising my First Amendment rights.”
Perry acknowledged the councilmen had a right to be out in the public, just not so close in proximity to signature collectors.
“It’s pretty clear when someone’s at a petition table, they can’t come up and intimidate people,” Perry said, noting that Allevato himself referred to the group as his “posse” on a Facebook post.
Perry would not indicate how signature gathering is going, but did say that normally in front of Vons, petitioners average 24 signatures in a couple of hours. Saturday, they collected three.
The recall backers have until March 7 to collect 3,502 valid signatures to bring the matter to a public vote.