By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Which was the last thing that Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson needed.
Since former Governor Evan Mecham's cancellation of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and the defeat of the same holiday by Arizona voters last November, the moderate mayor of Phoenix had lobbied vigorously to convince the nation that the state was not a bastion of racism.
It was a hard sell.
Since the November vote, 63 conventions representing a loss of $38 million had canceled in protest of the King holiday vote. And that was on top of the 48 conventions and $30 million lost following former Governor Mecham's cancellation of the civil rights celebration. Tillman's February 4 press conference charging Chief Ortega with racial insensitivity could not have happened at a worse time; the NFL was already on record as threatening to yank the 1993 Super Bowl and its $200 million in projected revenues out of Phoenix over the Martin Luther King fiasco.
By March 14, when it was apparent that Phoenix would, in fact, lose the football extravaganza, the mayor could no longer restrain himself, and in an unusual burst of candor for an elected official, he lashed out.
Writing to the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, Norman Braman, who'd led the charge against Phoenix, Mayor Johnson attacked the hypocrisy of moving the Super Bowl to another city.
"Will you support Los Angeles, where police recently mutilated a black man with nightsticks? Or San Diego, whose citizens overwhelmingly voted to strip Dr. King's name from a public street? And will you vote to go back to Louisiana, where David Duke serves in the state legislature--and who received 600,000 votes to serve in the United States Senate? And will you continue to operate your own business on Martin Luther King Day while the cities of Tempe and Phoenix are observing the holiday?"
In a separate note to the rest of the owners in the league, Mayor Johnson concluded, "You don't have to guess whether or not we are a community of bigotry and hatred, because you've been to Phoenix. You've had meetings here. You play football here throughout the regular season. You know that Arizonans are warm, enthusiastic and decent."
It is against this backdrop, and at the very same time, that the city manager's office and the chief of police were crafting and recrafting an official report denying so much as a single instance of racial insensitivity by the department.
On March 14, the same day that the City Hall white paper was being massaged toward its final draft, a black woman in Phoenix was confronting the reality ignored in the report. On March 14, the same day that Mayor Johnson sent his letter to the NFL owners, a black retiree watched, watched again, and watched yet again the replays of the Rodney King videotape.
These two persons have stories to tell that don't appear in the City Hall's white paper.
Nor does the city's investigation tell the tale of the black mother who noticed a pack of squad cars on her way home from work.
Despite the efforts of Phoenix officials to make complaints of excessive force disappear, the incidents of police brutality toward Valley blacks continued.
The following pullquote must be used, per Bodney.
Sometimes the spin put on potentially embarrassing situations is ingenious in its cold-blooded efficiency.
The report that so pleased Reverend Tillman was as misleading as it was artful.
The deputy city manager isolated only those numbers that made his point, ignoring obvious and damaging statistics.
In Phoenix, Afro-Americans are shot at by police at a rate (17 percent) nearly six times their population base.
Reverend Tillman is not particularly obsessed with this trail of bureaucratic malfeasance.
"There must be realistic police review. The mayor and the council will always opt for people who won't rock the boat," says Tillman.