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Natalie Cimonetti says she doesn’t feel safe.
The Telford Police Department is threatening to arrest her for criticizing online local members of Moms for Liberty, a conservative “parental-rights” group.
“It makes me feel like I’m not safe in my own town from the police,” Cimonetti, 47, said.
Vic Walczak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, and his colleagues have reviewed Cimonetti’s online posts and activity. He said nothing comes anywhere close to a criminal violation.
“Threats of criminal prosecution from any law enforcement entity is going to scare people and it is that kind of behavior that totalitarian governments use to maintain control,” Walczak said.
Telford Police Chief Randall Floyd sent a letter to Cimonetti in July stating his department received reports of her “maliciously harassing” Moms for Liberty (M4L) members “through a campaign of internet stalking and doxing.”
“Reportedly, as part of this endeavor, you posted personal information of certain M4L members, along with photos and negative commentary,” Floyd wrote. Without evidence, Floyd also accused Cimonetti of including minor children of M4L members.
Cimonetti was previously mailed a cease-and-desist letter from the organization in March. Floyd referenced that letter and said that Cimonetti continued to “disregard legal warning.”
“In consultation with the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office concerning this complaint, it was concluded that criminal charges are warranted,” Floyd wrote.
Floyd’s letter was intended as a warning that future “harassment” will result in charges.
Cimonetti said the letter confused her so she called the police department in hopes of speaking to the chief. She couldn’t reach Floyd, but spoke with a detective, who told her: “Stop harassing Moms for Liberty.’”
“That was all he told me,” Cimonetti said.
The ACLU got involved and sent a letter to the Telford Police Department and the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office.
“What we asked was for clarification on what it is that she posted that might be criminal,” Walczak said. “And if they couldn’t provide that, asked them to formally let Natalie know that she’s not being watched here and we haven’t heard back.”
Floyd declined to comment to WHYY News, citing an ongoing investigation.
A spokesperson for the county district attorney’s office said they cannot confirm the existence of any investigation unless charges are ultimately filed.
In regards to the event that sparked the cease-and-desist letter, Cimonetti said it stems from a link to a Montgomery County Moms for Liberty membership list floating around online.
She initially reposted the link in a private Facebook group for Pennsylvania Stop Moms for Liberty.
“I didn’t leave it up for very long, [because] someone told me that might be against the terms of service to share private group information between groups or whatever, so I deleted it,” Cimonetti said.
A few weeks later in March, Cimonetti received a cease-and-desist letter from legal counsel for Moms for Liberty. Similar letters were sent to the administrator of the Facebook group and the founder of Stop Moms for Liberty
Moms for Liberty and its attorney from their law firm Fisher Broyles did not respond to a request for comment.
Cimonetti is unsure what caused the Telford police to intervene. She recently started working with Red Wine & Blue, a progressive group that seeks to politically engage suburban women.
When the national Moms for Liberty Summit came to Philadelphia in June and July, Cimonetti said she attended some counter events.
“The ACLU’s primary concern here is that you’ve got government officials, especially law enforcement, who are trying to put their thumbs on the scale of a political debate,” Walczak said. “Obviously, there are different views of what America should be in this country and certainly how our schools should operate. Natalie and Moms for Liberty are on opposite sides of that. That’s good in a democracy to have that kind of debate. It’s not good when you have law enforcement trying to intimidate one side into silence.”
Walczak said the threat of arrest has had a chilling effect on Cimonetti’s constitutionally protected political activity and free speech.
The Southern Poverty Law Center recently deemed Moms for Liberty an “extremist organization” after its two-year, nationwide push to oust conversations about race and gender identity from the classroom.
The organization has fueled book bans in schools while backing a wave of conservative school board candidates across the country.