"You cannot let them play the crab-in-the-barrel game on you," Sharpton said, "where you feel you've got to grab down the Latino to get up, or grab down the black to get up. The way for the crabs in the barrel to get up is to move the lid off the barrel, so there's enough room for all of us to get up."

(You can listen to Sharpton's entire speech at Pilgrim Rest here.)

True to the venue, Sharpton's address took on the tone of a revival meeting. He denounced the misuse of the 287(g) program, the indiscriminate use of race by police, the unequal application of laws, and the spread of fear in the Latino community. He mentioned death threats he had received because of his decision to come to Arizona.

The Reverend Al Sharpton preaches unity among African Americans and Latinos at Phoenix's Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church.
Stephen Lemons
The Reverend Al Sharpton preaches unity among African Americans and Latinos at Phoenix's Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church.

"Let me make this clear," he told the crowd. "We are not here about Sheriff Joe, as much as we are here about Citizen Jose. I would not fly all the way across country to engage in the personality of Sheriff Joe."

Sharpton also promised a series of "freedom rides" for Maricopa County, calling on the memory of the Freedom Riders of the 1960s, who rode on interstate buses to test a U.S. Supreme Court order desegregating terminals for bus routes.

"What we need to do is start us some freedom rides in this county," Sharpton suggested. "Where we all start . . . filming [video] to turn over to the federal government. Sheriff's deputies are not sure who they're gonna stop. They might stop a car with me in it."

In fact, that's something such local groups as Puente and CopWatch do now. But to have outside organizations, like Sharpton's National Action Network, involved is an interesting prospect.

The speech ended with a standing ovation, and then Sharpton was off. First to a mini- press conference, where a reporter asked the reverend what he would say to those who observe that both Sharpton and the sheriff share a common love of publicity.

"I would say they are probably right," he said. "But we get publicity for different reasons. I try to put publicity on the issues of civil rights. And if my coming can help [ACORN CEO] Bertha Lewis and [Maricopa County Supervisor] Mary Rose Wilcox and others put light on the abuses of [the 287(g) program], then please call me a publicity hound."

Then Sharpton jumped in a black SUV and made his way to Wilcox's El Portal restaurant, where he did a live, three-hour radio show, seated beneath a portrait of César Chávez. An audience of about 100 packed El Portal to watch as Sharpton interviewed Wilcox, ACORN's Lewis, and Julio Mora, the 19-year-old American citizen who was unlawfully detained and zip-tied along with his legal-resident dad during the MCSO's raid on HMI Landscaping in February. (You may recall that Mora was a star witness during the House Judiciary Committee hearings on 287(g) in April.)

Wilcox told Sharpton about Arpaio's Guadalupe sweep last year, and Sharpton was surprised to hear how Arpaio had essentially shut down this square-mile town of Yaqui Indians and Mexican-Americans, almost all of whom are citizens. Guadalupe activist Andrew Sanchez was present, and he told Sharpton about the fear and intimidation the entire town felt as Arpaio's deputies ravaged it last April.

I took the opportunity to chat up Sharpton during the show's commercial breaks. I mentioned Arpaio's abuses of power, how he was investigating state Attorney General Terry Goddard as an intimidation tactic.

When I arrived at El Portal, there were a handful of nativist protesters on the other side of the street — mostly the usual suspects, such as Barb Heller, the United for a Sovereign America member who has boasted of her contacts with the MCSO, and whom I mentioned in my cover story "Ja, Joe!" (May 14).

With the nativists was at least one neo-Nazi, Harry Hughes, whom I also discussed in the story. The nativists didn't seem to mind his being on their side, and one of them even walked up and hugged him as I took pictures. So much for the nativists' attempting to act aloof toward white supremacists.

As soon as Sharpton's show was over, he went to the Wells Fargo Building, where Arpaio keeps two floors of pricey executive suites. The nativists and assorted armed white supremacists had already moved on to Wells Fargo. Activists on the other side of the immigration debate also soon assembled.

For a while, both the pro- and anti-immigrant sides were mixing and mingling peacefully. But eventually there were minor verbal confrontations, and the Phoenix police formed a cordon of 30 officers to keep the sides separated. Sharpton entered the building about 1:30 p.m. and exited at 2:10. He went straight to the elevator for the garage, surrounded by aides and bodyguards, without a word to the press or the demonstrators.

Arpaio and Sharpton were to be part of CNN's Lou Dobbs Show in a segment aired live from a Phoenix studio, and I made it home in time to see their verbal cage fight. Sharpton easily out-debated Arpaio, who seemed tired and cranky.

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