Russell Pearce, Bald-Faced Liar? You Decide

The Mad Cap'n of Sand Land's Ship of State
The Mad Cap'n of Sand Land's Ship of State

State Senate President Russell Pearce wants the public to believe there's not a list of folks who're persona non grata at the Arizona state Senate building. And in a bit of a contradiction, he also wants you to believe that part of him "banning" people from the state Senate has to do with state Senator Kyrsten Sinema fearing for her safety.

Whether or not there's a physical "list" is irrelevant. The reality is, we know human rights activist Sal Reza and radio show host Carlos Galindo have been banned. Pearce claimed in a recent statement, which you can see in full below, that there is no "blacklist." Democratic state Senate Minority Leader David Schapira disputes this.

"Stunned by Pearce's press release!" he wrote on Twitter. "His claim that `there is no "blacklist"' is flatly untrue. He admitted to me yesterday that there is."

Now let's go to Pearce's statements about Senator Sinema. Pearce writes:

"On Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema attempted to hold a news conference in a Senate hearing room to discuss a bill she sponsored. Instead of being able to take questions from the assembled media, she was confronted by a hostile group of activists protesting her bill. [Senator] Sinema told Senate security she feared for her safety. Capitol police arrested four people on suspicion of disorderly conduct."

But Sinema tells me that's untrue, that she never told anyone that she "feared for her safety" regarding the protest by radio show host Carlos Galindo and other activists of her press conference. Nor did she ask the Capitol Police to arrest anyone. That was the call of the Capitol Police.

Pearce further claims that these incidents with different activists have "threatened the safety of our members." He offers no proof of this. Were people threatened by hearing muffled applause from the overflow room during Tuesday night's marathon Appropriations Committee hearing? Gimme a break.

He goes on to compare the situation to the tragedy in Tucson, with 19 killed or wounded.

That asinine comment pretty much speaks for itself.

Now check this passage:

Tuesday night, the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing. Because of a large public turnout, Senate staff opened up an adjacent hearing room for the public to follow testimony. Security told those gathered to show respect and proper decorum, since the hearing rooms were so close to each other. Some in the audience ignored this directive, shouting slurs, clapping loudly and even banging a drum. Despite these disruptions, which could be heard in the Appropriations room, security remained patient and no arrests were made.

On Thursday afternoon, the prime agitator from Tuesday night's crowd reappeared at the Senate. After refusing orders from law enforcement, he was escorted into a private room by police officers. Security reported that an individual accompanying the suspect charged the room and tried twice to make entry. That suspect also screamed that someone had a gun, causing a panic in an adjacent room hosting another hearing. This individual attacked an officer and is charged with disorderly conduct and aggravated assault on a peace officer.

Couple of observations. First, Pearce never alleges, as the Capitol Police's probable cause statements do, that "the prime agitator from Tuesday night's crowd" (i.e., Sal Reza) was told on Tuesday night that he was banned from the state Senate building.

Second, he states that the "suspect" arrested with Reza, a soft-spoken 33-year old named Anayanse Garza, "screamed that someone had a gun, causing a panic in an adjacent room hosting another hearing."

That's quite interesting, as it was not mentioned in the probable cause statements.

Pearce claims that the activism at the Capitol involved, "dangerous situations that required prompt law enforcement."

Dangerous situations? What danger? From people clapping?

Finally, there's this outrageous statement:

"As Senate President, it is my duty to protect our Members, staff and visiting public, and provide a safe, secure environment."

What sort of "safe, secure environment" turns a blind eye to legislators and members of the public carrying concealed weapons into the state Senate, something Pearce condones, in spite of state law?

So, you tell me, folks: Is Pearce a whacked-out fabulist, or is he as truthful as a country parson?

Truthful or not, Pearce is brewing a pretty noxious concoction here. I am aware of Capitol Police looking the other way when it comes to armed, pro-Pearce nativists on the Capitol grounds. Inside the state Senate building, the anti-immigration side is welcome, while the pro-immigration side is not. 

Where will it end? I don't know. But by blocking citizens from the state Senate, Pearce is whipping up a climate of hatred and fear. Not that there's anything new about that.

Subject: Pres. Pearce on recent incidents at the Senate
February 25, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Here in the Senate, we are wrapping up one of the busiest weeks in recent memory, with our members hard at work developing a state budget, considering dozens of Senate bills in Committee, and working on pension reform, education reform, border security and job creation. Unfortunately, this week has also been marred by three incidents in our Senate Building that threatened the safety of our members, staff and the public.

On Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema attempted to hold a news conference in a Senate hearing room to discuss a bill she sponsored. Instead of being able to take questions from the assembled media, she was confronted by a hostile group of activists protesting her bill. Sen. Sinema told Senate security she feared for her safety. Capitol police arrested four people on suspicion of disorderly conduct.

Tuesday night, the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing. Because of a large public turnout, Senate staff opened up an adjacent hearing room for the public to follow testimony. Security told those gathered to show respect and proper decorum, since the hearing rooms were so close to each other. Some in the audience ignored this directive, shouting slurs, clapping loudly and even banging a drum. Despite these disruptions, which could be heard in the Appropriations room, security remained patient and no arrests were made.

On Thursday afternoon, the prime agitator from Tuesday night's crowd reappeared at the Senate. After refusing orders from law enforcement, he was escorted into a private room by police officers. Security reported that an individual accompanying the suspect charged the room and tried twice to make entry. That suspect also screamed that someone had a gun, causing a panic in an adjacent room hosting another hearing. This individual attacked an officer and is charged with disorderly conduct and aggravated assault on a peace officer.

All three of these incidents were dangerous situations that required prompt law enforcement. I make every effort to conduct the people's business with the citizens of Arizona able to witness and participate in our work. But when people create disturbances and threaten Members and the public, law enforcement is required and expected to step in.

As Senate President, it is my duty to protect our Members, staff and visiting public, and provide a safe, secure environment. The state Constitution gives the President control over the Senate building. In the future, we will be much more vigilant over misconduct by anyone visiting this building.

Let me make it clear: there is no "blacklist" of people who are not allowed in the Senate building. These accusations are coming from the very people who are causing these disturbances, in an attempt to generate some kind of misplaced sympathy with the public.

How quickly we forget the tragedy of just last month in Tucson, when a Federal Judge and Congressional aide were killed, along with four others, and a Congresswoman, who once served in this building, was critically wounded. Our public servants work hard to serve Arizona and make it a better place. Many were shaken by the incident in Tucson and pledged a new civility. It is my hope that members of the public also commit to that pledge and refrain from hostile actions that ignite such incidences.


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