Arizona House Speaker Bans Far-Right Activists From Entering Building

Jennifer Harrison and another activist affiliated with a far-right group have been barred from entering the Arizona House of Representatives.
Jennifer Harrison and another activist affiliated with a far-right group have been barred from entering the Arizona House of Representatives. AZ Patriots United/Facebook
Two far-right activists previously affiliated with the anti-immigrant group Patriot Movement AZ were banned from entering the Arizona House of Representatives on Wednesday.

House Speaker Rusty Bowers used his authority to issue a verbal directive to security, barring the two individuals from the building last week, according to a spokesperson.

Security officials blocked activists Jennifer Harrison and Jeremy Bronaugh, both wearing red Make America Great Again hats, from walking into the House building past the metal detector.

Capitol Police officers explained to them that the speaker can deny entry under the rules of decorum. Harrison filmed the exchange in a video uploaded to Facebook.

"This is bullshit," Harrison complains in the video, later telling officers she entered the building just last week. “I came here to listen to a bill."

The anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim activists affiliated with Patriot Movement attend rallies and public events as a roving band of counter-protesters, shouting at other demonstrators and often carrying firearms.

Last year, Harrison and fellow Patriot Movement activist Lesa Antone protested outside the Capitol buildings, where they confronted legislative staffers and lawmakers including Representatives César Chávez and Eric Descheenie. According to the Arizona Capitol Times, lawmakers and staff said Patriot Movement members singled out dark-skinned individuals, asking if they were "illegal."

In October 2018, Harrison, Bronaugh, Antone, and Russell Jaffe filed a $40,000 defamation lawsuit against then-Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs over a tweet. Hobbs, who is now Arizona's Secretary of State, wrote that Antone flashed the "OK" hand gesture as a "white supremacist sign" while posing for a photo with Governor Doug Ducey.

Writing on the activities of Patriot Movement, Nick Martin of the Southern Poverty Law Center said that the group has embraced some alt-right and white nationalist symbols.

"The group's rhetoric, while not white nationalist, has veered into other types of hate," Martin wrote last year. "It has been active in anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim activities in Arizona and Southern California, and it has forged alliances with an array of extremist groups, including militias and SPLC-designated hate groups."

In Harrison's video, officers did not explain to Harrison and Bronaugh why they had been barred, but pointed out a list of rules displayed on a plaque on the wall. "He's the speaker of the House. You're going to have to take it up with him," an officer told them.

Matt Specht, a spokesperson for the House Republican caucus, said that Harrison and Bronaugh were barred per an order from Bowers after the two accessed the office of Representative Kelli Butler under false pretenses.

"It’s unfortunate that this action was necessary," he wrote in an email, "but Speaker Bowers takes the safety and security of all House members, staff, constituents, and guests seriously."

Specht would not elaborate on what happened to prompt Bowers to issue his order.

Butler, a Democrat, told the Arizona Mirror that Harrison and Bronaugh followed a group of immigrant-rights activists with the group Aliento into her office, which "really rattled" her assistant.

“I just kinda got nervous, as I didn’t know what their intention was,” Butler told the Mirror.

In a January 23 video of the incident from the Patriot Movement Facebook page, Harrison and Bronaugh slip past a security staffer through a set of double doors leading to members' offices, after telling the staffer they are with the group of activists. Harrison walks into Butler's office during her meeting with the activists, continually recording.

A confused Butler asks Harrison if she is with Aliento.

"We're just observing, we're just documenting," Harrison tells her in the video. "It's the people's house, right?"

Harrison and Bronaugh apparently have formed a splinter group and are no longer members of Patriot Movement. In a February 18 post on Facebook, the Patriot Movement page referred to Harrison, Bronaugh, and others as former members who have left the group and "chosen to do their own thing as AZ Patriots."

In the video posted online Wednesday, Harrison identifies herself as a member of AZ Patriots, not the Patriot Movement, during an interview with a television reporter from 3TV/CBS5.

During the television interview, Harrison suggested that Bowers had blocked her from entering the building because of her hat, though she wasn't able to name Bowers.

“I have no idea who the speaker of the House is, but apparently he knows who I am, and he specifically denied me entry into the people’s house because of my red hat?" Harrison tells the reporter. "He doesn’t like my red hat — [does] he have MAGA-phobia? I’m not quite sure.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Harrison filmed herself and Bronaugh at the downtown Phoenix office of the Maricopa County Recorder. She said they intended to examine voter registration records for signs of voter fraud.

Shortly after entering the building, Harrison was asked to stop filming, and left.
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Joseph Flaherty is a staff writer at New Times. Originally from Wisconsin, he is a graduate of Middlebury College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Contact: Joseph Flaherty