Phoenix activist the Reverend Jarrett Maupin believes that criticism of the plan he made with Sheriff Joe Arpaio to put armed guards outside 60 predominantly black churches in Phoenix stems from “preacher pettiness” and “personality animosity.”
He specifically calls out the Reverend Reginald D. Walton and Pastor Warren Stewart Jr. for holding a press conference Saturday, June 20, to accuse him of exploiting a national tragedy for media attention. Maupin believes that the two of them are jealous and envious of him, and of all the Civil Rights work he’s done throughout the years.
“The hypocrisy is incredible,” he says. “I think they are the ones seeking attention.”
In the wake of the deadly terrorist attack last week at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, Maupin says he received phone calls from members of the Phoenix community telling him they were afraid to go to church on Sunday.
“One lady called and said she wouldn’t take her kids if there was no security,” he said. “And I met with some clergy from many denominations all around the city — many poor, mid-size churches can’t afford [private] security.”
Maupin says he called the Phoenix Police Department and was told that they don’t have the resources to put officers outside of every church, so he called the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. “The Sheriff was the last call [and] I was very surprised when he said yes.”
On Friday afternoon, Maupin and Arpaio held a joint press conference to announce the church security plan, and Maupin says the reaction he got was overwhelmingly positive.
But then on Saturday, as we’ve previously reported, Walton, Stewart, and members of the clergy and community from all over Phoenix held a press conference of their own to denounce the plan. “Thanks, but no thanks,” was their message.
Speakers called out Maupin and Arpaio for using the deaths in Charleston for “a camera opportunity” or to get “15 minutes of fame,” and said that they and their congregations did not feel comfortable having Arpaio — “a man with a track record of racism and a track record of brutality” — patrol their churches.
Those in attendance referred to Arpaio as a master manipulator and egomaniac, and said Maupin came across like his sidekick.
“Yes, I [did the press conference] for the publicity, but not only for the publicity,” Maupin tells New Times. “Publicity helps the [Civil Rights] movement. Publicity around one case helps to provide momentum for the next movement.”
For Walton and Stewart “to politicize and exploit the situation is shameful,” he adds. “They were in a such a hurry to discredit the Sheriff and me that they ran over what families wanted.”
And as for working with Arpaio, Maupin says he “didn’t give the Sheriff a pass [for] his track record,” but that he believes it’s possible for Arpaio to change and be redeemed. At Saturday’s press conference “they compared the Sheriff to Bull Connor” — the Commissioner of Public Safety for Birmingham, Alabama during the Civil Rights era who was a staunch (and violent) supporter of segregation — “but to me he’s more like George Wallace who eventually became a staunch supporter for Civil Rights.”
He adds that when he called Arpaio, the Sheriff “recognized that white supremacy is real…and that action was needed.”
Maupin also thinks it’s ridiculous that those attending Saturday’s press conference said he doesn’t speak for the black community in Phoenix — “I can’t believe they would say that,” he says. “That wasn’t a church full of black clergy, that was a group of people wanting to highlight the Sheriff’s past…There are 186,000 black [men and women] in the Phoenix metro area — that’s a hell of a lot more than go to their churches every Sunday.”
Maupin maintains that he talked to many clergymen and people in Phoenix before calling Arpaio, but when asked why he didn’t call Walton or Stewart—two men New Times has written about again and again for their social justice activism — Maupin says he “would never call them because they have a mediocre track record for Civil Rights.”
When asked if in hindsight he would have called them, Maupin responds with a loud “hell no! If it’s a matter of their permission, of kissing their ass — that’s not what leaders do.”
“Jealous and envious?” Walton says, releasing a deep bellowing laugh. “Normally when people are jealous, there is something to be jealous of…My Civil Rights track record speaks for itself, I do not have to compare myself to anyone else.”
“No body takes Jarrett Maupin seriously,” Stewart says. “I don’t see what advancements in Civil Rights he has contributed to Arizona…If you want true Civil Rights [action], you don’t go to the TV.” Both Stewart and Walton tell New Times that if Maupin and Arpaio were sincerely concerned about safety, then they should have just put a security plan in place and not called media attention to it.
“This just seems opportunistic,” Walton says. “Arpaio is facing federal charges for racism and corruption, and he now wants to reach out to the African American community? I believe in redemption, in having a change of heart, but if it was genuine, it could have been done without cameras. And if it was genuine, why wouldn’t Arpaio reach out to someone other than Maupin?”
Maupin “just keeps exposing his insecurity and narcissism. He lusts for fame and glory,” Stewart says. “This was [an act of] exploitation — shame on him! He says he called the Phoenix Police, and then Arpaio as a last resort, but he didn’t call any of us . . . He could have contacted us, but he didn’t, and instead he contacted the press…and got on the news with Arpaio and fabricated a lie.”
Stewart and Walton say they, and other black clergymen, have always had a working relationship with the Phoenix Police Department. “We have a church in South Phoenix in one of the highest crime areas,” Stewart says. “You don’t think we have security?”
Sergeant Trent Crump of the Phoenix Police Department tells New Times in an email that the department has “an outstanding relationship with many faith-based organizations in Phoenix, many of those in south Phoenix. Our administration and our Community Relations Bureau were in contact with some of them. We never had a request specifically to guard a certain number of churches but we send out reminders to our employees asking them to conduct special watches on places of worship or any other large gatherings on Father's Day weekend. Even though there were no specific threats, we understood the need for a police presence in these areas to ensure a feeling safety in a time of need.”
On Sunday, June 21, 37 out of 60 predominantly black churches in Phoenix agreed to have armed protection by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Some officers were in uniform and patrolling the area in vehicles, others wore street clothes and sat inside of the churches.
Maupin says that there will also be a big MCSO presence this Sunday, but that beginning the following week, churches will need to specifically request extra security.
“The plan was never to supplement God’s unfailing protection of us,” Maupin explains. “God said don’t have fear, but God also gave us common sense.”
Stewart says he looks Maupin and just sees insecurity. “He wanted to feel like he did something nationally,” and then got upset when “his motivation was exposed and his agenda was exposed.”
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“We’ve forgiven Arpaio and Maupin over and over again, he adds. “If Arpaio has really seen the light about racial profiling, then we’ll see the fruits of that labor” and a change in MCSO policy.
“My focus is solely on the memory of those who lost their lives,” Walton says. “The reason we responded with a press conference is because [Maupin] had a press conference. I’m not trying to be in the public eye, but we felt that somebody had to speak up…I have more important things to do than get in a tit for tat with Jarrett Maupin.”