In advance of a service to be held tonight at Phoenix's Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, and a subsequent march to the state Capitol, the Reverend Al Sharpton blasted Arizona's new "papers please" legislation during a press conference, supporting a boycott of the state and promising "freedom walkers" brought in from all over the country to challenge the law.
"There is no way this law could be enforced," said Sharpton, "without profiling people based on whether they are Latino or appear to be Mexican...You can amend it. You can bend it. You can do everything you want to with it.
"To say that based on reasonable suspicion, state law enforcement can go after people based on Mexican immigration is to say that it is reasonable to look at anyone that appears Latino and subject them to a harassment and a scrutiny that other citizens in Arizona would not be subjected to."
One reporter asked Sharpton to respond to statements supposedly made by Governor Jan Brewer to the effect that that Sharpton had not read SB 1070 and should butt out of Arizona's business, the Reverend had this reply:
"I'm very flattered that [the governor] knows what I have read. Not only have I read the bill, I've read the Bible. And the Bible says that where you are in need, you are called to the ministry, you should be there...I would not presume to know what the governor's read. I don't know how she knows what I've read."
I had not heard these statements by Brewer, but if true, they would be an eerie reminder of the segregationists during the civil rights movement, who called activists such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "outside agitators" and "communists," as was common back then.
Unlike actor Danny Glover, who appeared with Mayor Phil Gordon earlier in the day, Sharpton said he fully backed a boycott of Arizona.
"I do support a boycott," he said. "Because I think it would be wrong to help to finance and subsidize racism. And that's what would happen if this bill goes into effect. I intend tonight at the rally to say that the next rally that I participate in will be in front of the Major League Baseball offices asking Commissioner Selig that they not bring the All-Star Game here [in 2011]."
Queried about the possible impact of a boycott on the poor, Sharpton derided the hypocrisy of those raising the issue.
"Those that are concerned about low-wage workers and undocumented immigrants would not want the profiled," he replied. "So rather than wait [to find out] if a boycott would hurt them, why would you propose making sure they're hurt now with a law? It seems hypocritical to me [for critics of a boycott] to say we're concerned about the people that we're going to absolutely rob...of their rights."
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At one point, Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox presented Sharpton with a "Los Suns" jersey that the Suns will be wearing tonight in their game against the Spurs, thus honoring the Latino people and showing solidarity with them.
Sharpton said he would wear the jersey during the upcoming march.
"I'm not on the team," he cracked. "But we're on the same side tonight."