By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
To be sure, the Gaucins' experience isn't the only example of the MCSO's racial profiling ways, just the most recent. Essentially, the MCSO's M.O. is to arrest anyone with brown skin and ask questions later.
The same thing happened to American citizen Julio Mora, when he and his permanent-resident dad were zip-tied and held for three hours during the MCSO's February raid on HMI Landscaping in Phoenix. Mora, 19, was taking his dad to work when he and his father were stopped and wrongfully arrested. Even though Mora's father was 66 years old and diabetic, the deputies would not let him relieve himself. He was eventually allowed to urinate next to a nearby vehicle.
Mora testified about the incident at the House Judiciary Committee hearing in April. Stories like his and Fili Gaucin's are repeated almost daily. That's your MCSO at work.
For those who argue that such detainment or arrest is no big deal, I suggest a little experiment: Zip-tie Sheriff Joe's hands and those of his lapdog Brett Palmer behind their backs, sit them on the ground and ignore them for one to three hours. At least these two ofays with badges will have the satisfaction of knowing they weren't racially profiled.
Recently, Sheriff Joe declared the jail lockdowns caused by massive hunger strikes ongoing in his vast incarceration complex to be over. The MCSO issued a press release on the matter, stating that, "Effective today, May 22, 2009, the Maricopa County jails that have been on indefinite lockdown [sic] will be lifted by Sheriff Arpaio."
Though reading MCSO press releases is a little like reading between the lines of Pravda back in the day, this one admits Arpaio's putting an end to the lockdown even though the hunger strike is not over.
"During the past week [the] number of inmates refusing to eat ranged from 1,800 to just a handful last night," notes the statement, which quotes Joe as promising, "If the hunger strike comes back and the threats resume, the lockdown will be re-instituted."
What exactly is a "handful" to the MCSO? Of 1,800 men, would that mean 50, 100, 200? Whatever it is, Arpaio seems to recognize that a handful could multiply quickly in the wake of this announcement.
Yet Arpaio promised the Arizona Republic earlier in the week, "[The] lockdown will continue until they start eating again." Maybe the self-proclaimed toughest sheriff in the universe meant to say, "until they, er, mostly start eating again."
The press release ends in typical Arpaio bluster, with a swipe at the ACLU's recent denunciation of the lockdown as a violation of prisoners' First Amendment rights
"In case people don't know, I run the jails, not the inmates or my critics," harrumphs Arpaio
"If you have to state publicly that you're in charge, that means you're not in charge," chuckled Phoenix civil rights activist Salvador Reza of the group Puente, after he was read the release. Reza said he and his colleagues organized seven candlelight vigils in support of the strike, beginning the first week in May, when they began to hear news of the fasting from relatives of prisoners.
The vigils have mostly taken place outside Joe's jails, but recently, one was held at the Macehualli Day Labor Center, near 25th Street and Bell Road. Reza said 40 families came forward to tell how they'd not been able to check on their loved ones via phone or visits.
Asked whether he thought the hunger strike was losing steam, Reza said it was too soon to tell and suggested the inmates might next boycott the sheriff's canteen system, which sells candy bars, potato chips, and other items to prisoners at inflated prices, with money deducted from prisoners' jail accounts.
"Arpaio hasn't changed anything," observed Reza. "And unless Arpaio changes the way he treats human beings, he'll probably get more resistance."
Reza said he was planning another vigil, with the time and location to be announced.
"Never in my life have I ever heard of a peaceful action of this size inside of a jail," Reza noted, adding, "I guess Joe can't scare all of the people all of the time."