The Arizona police state rolls on. Today, outside the Arizona state Capitol, human rights activists Salvador Reza and Anayanse Garza of the group Puente held a press conference with their lawyers. This, following their arrests the day before in the state Senate building by plainclothes officers with the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Both alleged abuse at the hands of DPS Officer J. Gentry Burton and DPS Sergeant Jeff Trap, who collared them after warning Reza to leave, supposedly because he had been "banned" on the orders of state Senate President Russell Pearce. Reza said he was thrown up against the glass window of the building's lobby "like a common criminal."
Garza claimed she was dragged by her hair during her arrests. Garza had not been "banned," like Reza.
"They used violence against me," stated the soft-spoken, 33 year-old woman.
Reza was charged with one misdemeanor count of trespassing. Garza was hit with two felony counts, aggravated assault on an officer and resisting arrest, as well as one misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct.
This is where the accounts of the officers and the activists diverge. In the probable cause statements for the arrests, Capitol Police Officer D. Abril is listed as the official arresting officer. Abril's statement has Garza fighting with Trap as Reza hauled away to another room.
Abril states, "According to [Officer] Trap, Garza threw several swings at him, but missed."
The probable cause statement for Reza doesn't mention him being thrown up against the window. (Not that I'd expect the bulls to cop to that.) But it does offer this description of Reza being taken into custody.
"[Officer] Burton then went to place Reza under arrest. Reza at first pulled away, [Officer] Burton however was able to place him in handcuffs."
Why had Reza been banned in the first place? Abril writes, "On 2-22-11 Reza was advised by DPS security that he was not allowed in the Senate building because he was being disruptive. This trespass order [came] from the Senate President."
(State Senate President Russell Pearce has reportedly claimed there is no "blacklist." But Senate minority leader David Schapira has Tweeted that Pearce recently told him there is one.)
Reza was present for Tuesday's marathon Appropriations Committee hearing, along with numerous other activists, watching the proceedings on a TV set in an overflow room. How could Reza be disruptive as he sat in front of a Television? After all, the activists were not even allowed into the hearing room. I know because I was there.
At the press conference, Reza stated that he'd never been advised of being "banned." However, he said a security officer approached him at one point and asked him to stop the other activists clapping as they watched the AppCom travesty.
"He told me to tell the people to stop applauding," Reza recalled. "I told him I couldn't do that."
Indeed, there were activists from several organizations there that night. And Reza, as respected as he is, is no one's slave master.
Other activists who witnessed the exchange have told me that Reza was never asked to leave or told he was banned.
Reza informed me that he was there till at least 12:30 a.m. that night, and that no one ordered him to leave. Others there that night have confirmed this.
Garza and Reza went to the Senate yesterday to meet with Democratic state Senator Steve Gallardo, who had prepared forms for Reza so the activist could reserve Wesley Bolin Plaza, across from the Legislature, for a big demonstration planned for April.
Gallardo left the Senate floor after receiving a call from Reza, and witnessed him being arrested. He bashed Pearce for denying Reza the right all citizens have to meet with their elected representatives.
"Where does [Pearce] have the authority to ban someone?" Gallardo asked rhetorically at the presser. He referred to the state Senate rule book, and indicated there was nothing granting Pearce such powers.
"We call on Pearce to give us a list of everyone banned," he stated. "We need to know who's on that list and why."
Radio show host Carlos Galindo was informed that he was banned earlier in the week, after he and other protesters disrupted a press conference being given by Democratic state Senator Kyrsten Sinema. He sat outside the Senate building today with a sign blasting Pearce for the action.
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Steve Montoya, one of Reza's lawyers, indicated that several federal and state laws may have been violated by the arrests of Reza and Garza. He vowed civil action against the state of Arizona after the criminal charges against the pair had been laid to rest.
Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox also spoke at the press conference. I think her comments are particularly apt.
"We have to remind the [Arizona] Senate," she said. "That we're still a part of the United States of America."