December 10, 2009 | 10:07am
Like a lot of anti-Arpaio activists in town, videographer Dennis Gilman has been helping the U.S. Department of Justice gather evidence of abuse of power and racial profiling by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. He's provided them with a massive amount of video that he and others have culled while legally observing Sheriff Joe Arpaio's deputies in the field. But like many who've been patiently waiting for the feds to act, he's fed up with their dithering.
Hence the following letter, e-mailed to three DOJ investigators: Earl Saunders, Sarah Lopez, and Je Yon Jung. No doubt any direct legal action against Arpaio and the MCSO would have to be approved from on high, perhaps by Attorney General Eric Holder himself. Still, Gilman's timely, eloquent expression of frustration might filter up. And since he was so good as to share it with me, I figure I might as well help him raise a red flag.
Waiting for the feds to do something about the corruption and gross civil rights violations here in Mari-Kafka County makes you feel like Estragon and Vladimir in Waiting for Godot. If the feds can't act here, what's the point of having a Department of Justice? Might as well can all of those lawyers, close its doors, and give the American people their money back.
Dear Department of Justice,
I cannot express how disappointed people I speak with are and how disillusioned I have become.
What once was hope that human rights would be a concern in this County has turned into a forgotten memory.
I've run out of the ability to defend the DOJ any longer. It's not like we expected miracles. We know you are only an agency made of people. But what could you realistically expect from us? How much do we have to take?
I honestly do not know what to tell people who risked their safety when they came forward to speak with you only to be harassed by MCSO for doing so the very next day. Some are angry, some have lost trust in me or others who encouraged them. Many are simply afraid and hide. Many regret ever speaking up.
Should we forget about them? How many more broken arms, women torn from their children, deaths in Arpaio's Jails will it take? Should we care? They are just poor people. They have no money or power. Many are used to the abuse. They will never cost you your careers.
What about the many activists found innocent but jailed anyway? Should we just forget that? Will it matter if it's 1000? Not likely. Surely you can't be concerned about them, the members of the media or only one ACLU attorney? Of course it's perfectly normal to parade men in pink underwear on TV, break women's arms and jaws. No concerns here.
As things get worse (and they will) should we just forget all about it and learn to just keep our mouths shut and accept it?
Former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias states there is more than enough evidence. But what could he possibly know?
What is it really going to take? How many more Judges need to be harassed? How many will dare question the Almighty Sheriff or any actions of his deputies for fear they will not be allowed to conduct normal court business? (Look it up. If you think I'm exaggerating I'll prove you wrong in a heartbeat).
How many more Bomb Threats inside our courts before the FBI investigates the ones last week? Under the circumstances, do you really want to leave those investigations to the MCSO? Do you even know about it? Want to bet they never get solved if the FBI doesn't?
Even our State Attorney General has admitted to harassment and is under investigation by Arpaio. Isn't anyone suspicious that this may be part of the reason for his complacency toward the injustices in Maricopa County? Do you really want us to pretend the FBI is doing anything? What do you really think we are? Fools?
How many politicians do you think will speak up against the abuse when to do so surely means they will be investigated, indicted, harassed and have their lives turned into a living hell and their careers ruined at a minimum? How many more of us have to wind up in jail while you desert us here?
Who is in charge? The FBI, DOJ, Obama or Arpaio? Put that question on a poll in Az and I guarantee you who will win. Arpaio now tells ICE what to do. He calls, they come -- no questions. He's clearly more powerful without 287(g).Is this really what Obama told us would happen? Is this the change we voted for?
I can tell you in no uncertain terms that many activists are abandoning any hope of conventional justice and turning to the Anarchist movement in alarming numbers in this area.I can no longer try to convince them they should work with you or the FBI. You've shown them nothing but weakness. More every day are losing hope in the DOJ or FBI and this administration.Was this the goal all along?
We have seen nothing but inaction and abandonment from you as the Sheriff slowly takes over the Courts and any one that may hold him or his employees accountable.The County Board of Supervisors are now two down and the other three will never dare disagree with our Almighty Sheriff. Our County Government is now run by a Police State under Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Soon enough, he will come after myself and others.
It's a great burden you leave Human Rights Organizers and Activists to try to keep the peace due to your inaction. Many have bent over backwards to assist the DOJ only to watch things get worse. (And it's just beginning.)
Arpaio's faithful followers have become more violent toward Day Laborers and those that speak out against Arpaio at the protests and on the streets. It's only a matter of time before blood will start spilling.
More police are turning toward Arpaio's approach and ignoring the violence in front of them as witnessed just last week at the ASU event, at 40th Street and Thomas, and 25th Street and Bell. Your inactions have put unreasonable expectations on a movement that has preached nonviolence and cooperation from the very beginning.
I don't pretend to speak for everyone but if this is a new administration, I don't see it.
PS: If you want to follow-up on Gilman's letter, here are the e-mails of the three DOJ investigators: