Over the last year a local Republican Committee Facebook page has taken the law into their own hands.
As local political issues heated up, the Scituate Republican Committee began to block dissenting residents from their Facebook page. As the months passed, more and more residents found themselves blocked without cause.
Their reasoning for blocking these people? They were not registered Republicans or looking to support or become one.
The above picture is a screenshot of their most recent defense of their complicit behavior. According to this post they reserve the right to block people for harassment and negative posts. But doesn’t Facebook have a way to handle issues like this already?
Of course it does.
Site moderators can report posts that violate Facebook’s policies. They will then block the posts/users for you. There is no need to manually block them. Simply report the issue.
No Free Exchange of Ideas Allowed
By taking this into their own hands they have set the standard for their social media page that strips the abilities of non-Republican residents to counterpoint their narratives. This is a blatant violation if the First Amendment.
The door for communication is being shut by one side and they refuse to see their wrongdoing.
In civil matters you have to play devil’s advocate–that great Catholic tradition. So I jumped into the fray. I had heard from a dozen or so vocal residents who had been blocked and was initially in disbelief. I couldn’t fathom a political group blocking voices. Shouldn’t we all be seeking common ground? And shouldn’t political parties seek to gain, not lose followers.
After a handful of posts, where I offered possibilities and facts that politely opposed the Republican narrative, I was blocked.
I reached out to the site administrator on their personal account. I was blocked there. I sent emails to the local and state committee chairs. They were ignored. I called and left a message with multiple representatives of the state GOP committee. Again, I was ignored.
I Was Blocked
In July of 2017, a Virginia court ruled in favor of a plaintiff who had claimed a local political Facebook page had violated his First Amendment right by blocking him (Davison vs. Loudon County Board of supervisors). I made sure to reference this case in my emails to the local GOP. That too was ignored.
One local resident who had been blocked, and wishes to remain nameless, claims that a local GOP site member responded with “tell it to a judge” when she asked to be unblocked.
Local politics in RI is a cesspool of law breaking and code violation. I attempted to look into some of the issues residents were dealing with and this is what I found.
The above photo is a one page cost summary, obtained by a local GOP member, and posted on the Scituate Republican Committee Facebook page. The estimate was meant to challenge the January 23rd referendum to build a $1.7 million police station. According to the Republicans, and this above summary from Saccocio & Associates, the cost would be over $3.2 million.
Is This Legal?
The local Republicans were dead set against the Jan 23rd bond vote. They circulated documents like this to rally support in their corner. I called Saccocio & Associates to ask for an itemized cost sheet for the estimate. I was hung up on. What a way to treat a taxpayer! I made an additional call. They still refused to comment.
Additional propaganda was mailed out to residents before the referendum vote. It attacked the integrity of the current town council president John Mahoney. Mahoney, for his part, has also been blocked on their Facebook page, and is unable to respond to their allegations publicly.
Some of these individuals are seeking help from municipal attorneys and the ACLU. Meanwhile, the Scituate Republican Committee holds its ground. But for how long?
Technology has the all of the possibility to bring us together as citizens. Yet it also creates a stronghold that the old guard will seek to exploit.
The freedom of speech in this nation is what sets us apart from others. Shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to keep these lines of communication open?