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Court: Activist Bird-Dogging & Confronting Politician Not Stalking, Protected Speech

Above: State Rep. Angela Williams talks back to activist Darren O’Connor. Photo Credit: Refufia Gaintan,  http://www.thenationreportorg

State Representative Angela Williams Rebuffed In Effort To Silence Critic With Stalking Charge

Major victory for political free speech as court rules confronting politician is not a violation of law but protected political activity

State House Representative Angela Williams, District 7, recently attempted to bring a permanent restraining order against Darren O’Connor, claiming he was stalking her. O’Connor, a member of the Colorado Foreclosure Resistance Coalition (CFRC), has been challenging Rep. Williams regarding her vote in April this year against the Colorado Mortgage Accountability and Housing Stabilization Act: HB13-1249. Mr. O’Connor has contended that Williams, Chair of the Business, Labor, Economic and Workforce Development Committee, refused to meet with supporters of the bill, but chose instead to meet behind closed doors with members of the Colorado Bankers Association.

Rep. Williams began labeling Mr. O’Connor and fellow activists from Move On, Colorado Progressive Coalition, and Occupy Denver as bullies when, to try and gain an audience with her, they held a sit in at the capitol prior to the vote on HB1249. Shortly thereafter, O’Connor responded to an email list that Williams included him on to share that he would work hard in Williams’ district in the coming year to share her unwillingness to meet with those who believed HB1249 would have protected them and the Colorado economy going forward.

O’Connor has followed through by showing up at every one of her public Town Hall meetings and several of the District 7 Democrats meetings. When one such Town Hall was cancelled without notice, members of CFRC flyered William’s neighborhood, including her home, with literature that shared how they believed she had failed them and all Coloradans when she led her committee in killing HB1249. During this activity, Williams claimed that Mr. O’Connor had left a business card at only her home with the intent to send the message: you are not safe here. In her temporary restraining order (TRO), Williams claimed that O’Connor was escorted by an officer from her May Town Hall, and that at her October Town Hall, Commander Calo of District 2 had to tell him to back away from her.

Mr. O’Connor, an electrical engineer at the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, hired an attorney and the parties went to trial on November 13th. During four hours of testimony and arguments, Magistrate Catherine Cary heard Commander Calo describe O’Connor as a respectful, well-spoken gentleman, and denied having had to ask O’Connor to step away from Williams at her Town Hall. Another witness refuted O’Connor having been escorted out of the May Town Hall. O’Connor stood firm in asserting that his effort has always been a political one and was not personal, choosing to target Williams for her position both on the legislation, and of power because of her leadership role on her committee.

On November 25th, Rep. Williams and Mr. O’Connor returned to court for Magistrate Cary’s ruling. Citing the importance of the 1st Amendment and its guaranteed protection of political speech, Cary ruled against Williams’ request for a permanent restraining order. Williams’ list of complaints were found lacking, and she stated that Mr. O’Connor’s articulate and respectful communication style appeared to be effective, and he had a right to continue those efforts.

Mr. O’Connor shared after the trial, “Colorado law has been subverted by foreclosure attorneys, who changed the laws to allow banks to take homes with zero paperwork proving they own the loans. This happened when the Castle and Stawiarski foreclosure law firm rewrote our laws in 2006. This was just before the market collapse due to bundled loans, and the timing has always struck me as extremely fishy, since this law was put into place just in time to make it easy for banks and their attorneys to take peoples’ homes without supporting documentation. Representative Williams had a chance to fix our laws and to stand up for her constituents and all of Colorado this year, but she chose to instead stand up for the banking lobby that she is so readily available to. Her recently winning the Spirit of Independence Award from the Independent Bankers of Colorado shows where her bread is buttered. With Cary’s ruling, we see that when our laws are fair, Coloradans can win in court. I am grateful for my right to continue working to support the legal changes we so desperately need to protect homeowners across all of Colorado.”

He further shared that though the rates of foreclosure have declined from their peak levels of the Great Recession, every home lost due to fraudulent bank actions is a crime not only by the banks, but also by the system of law that allows it to happen. CFRC was involved just this week in helping a family with four children living at home—one of which has Down’s Syndrome—from being evicted the day before Thanksgiving. Says O’Connor, “Every month, including right through the holidays, approximately 1,000 Coloradans are getting foreclosed on. It is time for our legislators to restore our laws and protect homeowners, rather than continuing to defend the actions of the banks who so successfully lobby them.”

Colorado Foreclosure Resistance Coalition meets the 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month at Coleman’s Taste of Detroit at 2622 Welton Street in Denver. The meeting is open to all.

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