Sheriff Joe Arpaio (right) conversing with prejudiced pal Rusty Childress (left), ex-Kia peddler and leader of the most vicious anti-immigrant hate group in the Valley, United for a Sovereign America.
It was a Good Friday for racists last week as our own Pontius Pilate, a.k.a., Sheriff Joe, defiled the day commemorating Jesus Christ's crucifixion by unleashing his deputies and his alter kocker volunteer posse onto the undocumented. As you'll recall, Joe did this back in January, empowering his minions to pull over brown folk on the pettiest of infractions, like driving with a cracked tail light, or whatever excuse they can dream up to stop cars and check i.d.'s in hopes of collaring illegal aliens.
Never mind that the area Joe's boys in beige were patrolling is already well policed by the PHX PD. This campaign stunt had nothing to do with "crime suppression" as Joe tried to argue during his Good Friday press conference. It was all about putting Mexicans in pink handcuffs so he could show the redneck rabble that drives the immigration debate in this state that he's the numero uno oppressor of migrants in Maricopa County. Indeed, his corruption-plagued department is relying on the issue to ensure its tyrannical reign for another four years. Because if Joe can get reelected, his flunkies can continue taking trips to Honduras on the county dime, keep their fat salaries, and persist in persecuting and sliming their opponents with near impunity.
Not that I'm in the least bit religious, but a Good Friday dragnet like this was at the very least in poor taste. Still, I know I'm in the minority. The majority of Arizonans who dig Sheriff Joe -- the unwashed gene pool rejects, toothless bikers, white trash, and racist geriatrics from places like Sun City applaud the ethnic cleansing of the brown from this town by any means necessary. Never mind that most of this ilk claim to be Christians, just as they applaud breaking up families, and punishing those whose only crime is wanting to work for a living. What a disgusting bunch of hypocrites these anti-Mexican bigots are.
Anyway, the Joe Show started on Friday around four o'clock. The MCSO had three huge wagons positioned in the empty parking lot at 32nd Street and Thomas Road, so as to block any view from the street. Yellow cop tape kept demonstrators from both pro and anti-Joe groups at bay. However, anti-Joe forces made themselves heard by shouting at Joe from the nearby sidewalk. One guy with a bullhorn kept yelling, "This is state sponsored terrorism," and addressing Joe by saying, "Hey, Joe, I'm talking to you, man!" Joe was pretty flustered by this, and ended up cutting off reporters questions a little early because he couldn't hear the journos and vice versa.
Initially, I was blocked from entering the area where the press conference was taking place. Some plainclothes goon told me, "You're not welcome here." I asked to speak to his supervisor and yelled at Joe, whom I could see yards away, "Why won't you let me in, Joe?" The MCSO eventually let me in, but I'm guessing that's 'cause they didn't want to risk the possibility that my ejection might get reported on by one of the other news hounds present.
Once it got started, one of the TV people beat me to the punch, asking about Joe pulling this stunt on Good Friday. Arpaio, of course, was unapologetic.
"I don't know if we should bring religion into a political or law enforcement operation," said Joe, inadvertently admitting this was a "political" operation. "I don't think that's right to do that. We work every day of the week. Doesn't matter what day it is. We planned this a while back, and I'm not going to abort this operation because some people may be concerned that it's a Good Friday."
The reporter, whose name I didn't catch, followed up, pressing that the Good Friday round-up in the central Phoenix neighborhood showed a lack of sensitivity.
"See, I'm sensitive to the people who live here," claimed Joe. "If we can save one person tonight on a violent crime or any crime, I think that's important. It doesn't matter what day of the week that it is. Or whether it's a religious holiday. But I don't think we should bring religion into a law-enforcement operation. Into a political operation. There is a separation of church and government, so I don't, uh, -- but they have a right to do what they're doing [sic]. This is a free country. And I'm going to enforce the law, we do it 7 days a week."
Responding to another journo, who asked about Mayor Phil Gordon's comments criticizing the Sheriff for not informing the PHX PD about the operation, the Sheriff echoed an announcement he'd made the previous evening to the anti-immigrant hate group United for a Sovereign America, which holds its Thursday-night meetings at a VFW post in Sunnyslope.
"I'm responding to my constituents," he said. "They want something done about it. I am here, and we're going to keep coming back. In a message to the Mayor, I'll tell him right now, so we don't have any problems, come next week, we will be at 25th and Bell Road. So everybody knows that."
Twenty-fifth Street and Bell Road is the crossroads nearby where Salvador Reza's Macehualli Work Center is located. (The spot caters to day-laborers.) The members of Rusty Childress' U.S.A. group must be giddy with anticipation. They've been up there with their guns and their racist signs since the beginning of the year, and now Arpaio is finally responding to their pleas to help them close the center down. It's rumored that none other than alleged public urinator Buffalo Rick Galeener circulated an anti-Macehualli petition recently, scoring a handful of businesspeople to sign off on a request to Joe to send patrols to the area.
I asked Joe why he had spoken to the members of a known hate group on the night before this press conference, one that has accepted neo-Nazis and other racists into its ranks, like skinheads and members of the White Knights of America.
"You mean at the VFW [post in Sunnyslope]?" he asked.
"They're at the VFW because they have their Thursday night meetings there," I told him, referring to U.S.A.
"Who are you with?" asked Joe -- one of his favorite lines. "Identify yourself."
"You know who I'm with, the New Times," I shot back.
"The New Times?" he asked quizzically.
"Yeah, ask Mr. Chagolla, he let me in," I told him. Paul Chagolla is one of Joe's army of flacks.
"He let you in because I asked him to let you in," he informed me, gruffly.
"Oh, so you know who I am?" I observed.
"But I'm not going to respond to your garbage because I'm dealing with this situation," Joe grumbled. "Put that in the front page."
The press conference rolled on, with the bullhorn guy yelling "Sieg Heil!" and "Joe, I'm talking to yooooou." Several reporters present found this very amusing, including yours truly.
Channel 12's Joe Dana was present, and Arpaio attempted to insult Dana after Dana asked a question by referring to him as "Kent." Anchorman Kent Dana is apparently Joe Dana's father, or so I've heard. I introduced myself to Dana after the press conference, and he mentioned the fact that Paul Chagolla mistakenly thinks we're in collusion over the coverage of the Honduran enterprise. We both agreed this was ludicrous, as we'd never even talked before this day, and since we're essentially competitors. To me, such a belief just goes to show how deeply paranoid and suspicious the MCSO actually is.
Post-press conference, Arpaio was milling about talking to reporters, and I spotted him chatting with Rusty Childress, who had also been allowed access to the roped off media event. I again queried Joe about his ties to a known bigot such as Childress.
"He's a good guy," said Arpaio of Childress, who soon quietly amscrayed.
"You don't have any problem with him accepting neo-Nazis into his ranks?" I asked Arpaio.
"I have no problem," he replied. "You know what, I talk to everybody. I even talk to the demonstrators."
"Would you talk to the Klan?" I wondered.
"I talk to the inmates, I talk to everybody. I'm the Sheriff for everybody," he responded.
"Even the Klan, right, Joe? " I smirked.
Arpaio's answer didn't quite make sense, but I assume he'd shifted track mentally to those protesting him:
"I don't know, you know the reason? I'll always go talk to them, but when I do, they scream. I can't even say a word. They're screaming, they drown me out. They're very uncourteous, how can I go talk to them? They won't listen to me."
He continued: "A lot of people don't like me. About 20%. The other 80%, according to the latest poll, [support me]."
"60 percent," I corrected him. The most recent poll dealing directly with his approval rating had him in the 60th percentile.
"No, it's 80 percent," he insisted. "You should get the latest poll. Because we don't mail them."
I later e-mailed Paul Chagolla, asking for a link to a recent poll that has the sheriff at 80%. Maybe there is one, but he hasn't sent me the link yet.
Then I asked the question I'd come to ask.
"It's Good Friday, Joe," I reminded him. "If Jesus came back as an illegal alien, would you arrest him?"
Arpaio turned to Chagolla: "What should I say, Paul?"
"Here's what I would say--" Chagolla began.
Like a lot of old people, Arpaio answered his own question: "Don't say anything. Come on," he said, addressing me. "You're a good reporter. I told you that before."
The guy always tries to schmooze me. But then, he does that to everybody.
"But sometimes you go too far," he advised, paternally.
"Uh, like with the Shaq illustration?" I asked, referring to a recent Bird illo showing Arpaio with a bra on, in bed with Shaquille O'Neal.
"You know, that's not nice of you," Arpaio said, his face reddening slightly.
"Just a little humor to lighten things up," I told him. "Otherwise it's too serious all of the time, you know what I mean?"
Arpaio began walking away.
"I think you're better than hanging out with a hate group like United for a Sovereign America," I told him.
"I don't even know the group," he said.
"That's who you were speaking to last night at the VFW post," I reminded him.
"I speak to inmates too, you know," he retorted. "I talk to criminals every day. I used to speak to the New Times."
"But why would you want to associate with neo-Nazis and pseudo-Klan members?" I asked him.
That's when the sporadically-MILFy Lisa Allen MacPherson butted in.
"Everybody that calls him, he goes to speak [to them]," she interjected.
"You're supposed to protect his reputation, right?" I inquired of her.
"I do protect his reputation," she said.
"Then why would you let him go speak in front of a hate group?"
"That's your interpretation [of them]," she replied.
"No it's not [only mine]," I said. "There's the Southern Poverty Law Center."
(In the current edition of the SPLC's Intelligence Report magazine, both Rusty Childress and Buffalo Rick are given thumbnail profiles as nativist firebrands.)
"So we're supposed to take their opinion of something as fact?" she asked.
"Do you know who J.T. Ready is?" I quizzed her. "He's a known neo-Nazi. And he's been accepted at U.S.A. meetings. That doesn't bother you?"
"He [Arpaio] is his own man," she told me. "If he wants to go speak with a group he will."
"Would he go to a cross burning too?" I wondered.
"He's talked to - what's that group, the Republican Log, the gay republican group? He talked to them," she said, meaning, apparently, the Log Cabin Republicans.
"So you're equating gays with Klan wannabes?" I laughed
"No I'm not, but I'm saying there would be a lot of politicians who might look at that small group and say, `You know what, it's probably not in my best interest to talk to them.' He doesn't look at it that way. He has a message that he gives to everybody, and it's the same message."
"It's one thing to go before an anti-immigrant group. But not anti-immigrant groups that accept neo-Nazis into their ranks," I told her.
"I'm not sure everybody in that audience accepts neo-Nazis," she responded.
"Well, Rusty Childress has accepted them in the past," I stated.
"I don't know that," she said.
Then Chagolla tried to get into it,"You can't point to an individual and say that -"
"You can't point to one individual and say that's the whole group," said Chagolla. "If you could do it, you would do it, but you can't."
"He should not be associating with those people," I told him.
Chagolla: "We're done."
"I think we really shouldn't associate with you," snarked MacPherson. "But we gotta do that too."
"We are the press," I chuckle. "You'd rather not deal with the press at all."
"No, I don't want to deal with you at all, but unfortunately I have to occasionally," she smarmed.
"Well, you guys did try to get Dougherty arrested," I said.
"You guys do nothing but lie about us all the time," she spat. "That's all you do."
"When was the last lie?" I asked.
"When was the last time you published the paper?" she asked rhetorically. "That was the last time you lied."
Me: "OK, tell me what was in this paper that was a lie?"
"Everything that you do," she said.
I laughed at the stupidity of the statement.
"I'll tell you why you're so insidious, because it's half-truths and half-lies," she complained.
"If you'd given us all the information about Honduras...it could have all come out at once. Why didn't you want to do it?" I asked her, as she moved away.
"You think Honduras is a problem?" she asked.
"Were you down there, too, Lisa?" I wondered."Did you go down there too and get a vacation?"
"Does Hendershott have any property down there?" I inquired.
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"God, you know, he owns a whole damn place," she shot back.
"Can I quote you on that?" I chuckled, as she left.
Hey, you heard it here first, folks. According to MacPherson, Jabba the Hendershott has property in Honduras. OK, I know she was being sarcastic, but that doesn't mean she wasn't speaking the truth, now does it?
Check The Bird this Thursday for more on Arpaio's ties to United for a Sovereign America. Interesting revelations to come.