“Thanks, but no thanks” was the message a group of church leaders and community members had for Sheriff Joe Arpaio a day after he announced a plan to keep dozens of black churches safe across Phoenix with armed deputies and posse members.
Arpaio stated his intention at a press conference on Friday, where he was joined by the Reverend Jarrett Maupin, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in South Phoenix and less-than-popular self-described civil rights figurehead/convicted liar.
Maupin had told Arpaio that in the wake of the deadly terrorist attack in Charleston, South Carolina, that left nine black men and women dead, he was worried about a copycat shooting in Phoenix. Arpaio agreed to provide extra protection outside churches on Sunday morning.
The Arpaio-Maupin announcement appalled many in the black community, and on Saturday morning they, along with supporters of all races and religions, gathered in Phillip’s Memorial Church to provide a formal response: a strong and loud “no” to the plan.
“How is it that one person has come to speak for all of us?” said the Reverend Reginald D. Walton about Maupin. “Does Reverend Maupin speak for you?” he asked the crowd.
“No!” many responded.
“Can you speak for yourself?”
Speakers accused both Maupin and Arpaio of "exploiting the lives" of the nine victims “for 15 seconds on television,” and they expressed horror at the idea of having Arpaio — “a person who has a track record of racism and brutality” — be responsible for the safety of the black community.
“It was with great shock that I saw Maupin asked Arpaio for protection,” said the Reverend Alfredo Gutierrez. “It was not only shocking, but in fact, shameful.”
Time and time again, “Joe Arpaio has shown that he has not been there to protect us,” Pastor Warren Stewart told the crowd. He spoke about the positive working relationship he and others in the clergy have had with the Phoenix Police Department, and added that the black community of Phoenix refuses to be afraid, particularly in their houses of worship.
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While openly criticizing Arpaio and Maupin’s church security plan, the speakers also made it clear that they didn’t want the two men to distract from the real issues at hand — “Sheriff Arpaio is not the primary problem. The primary problem is systemic racism,” said Dr. Charles Johnson of Victory Community Church.
“It is my hope that we finally come to grips with the racial problem we have in this country, [a problem] we are so uncomfortable talking about, but it is a festering sore in the history of this great nation,” said Walton.
“Sheriff Arpaio, hear me well: Thank you, but no thank you,” he stated. “Reverend Maupin, hear me well: You do not speak for the minds and the hearts of all of Maricopa County.”