By any measure, the massive anti-Arpaio march that rocked Phoenix was a success — and then some.
Organizers from the L.A.-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network, which spearheaded the "Stop Joe Arpaio" parade on Saturday and brought Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha to town, estimated the crowd at 5,000. The Bird's initial estimate was 3,000 to 4,000. The Phoenix PD declined to speculate, while other reports simply left the count at "thousands."
Zack de la Rocha
In other words, it was freakin' big. So big that organizers had to rethink plans as demonstrators hoofed it south on Central Avenue from their starting point at Steele Indian School Park. The idea had been to make stops along the way (including at the offices of ICE), rally, and then move on toward the ultimate goal of the plaza at the Sandra Day O'Connor Federal Courthouse. But by the time the march got to the ICE offices, stopping the river of humanity would have been too disruptive, so march organizers such as Sal Reza of Puente led followers the remainder of the nearly four miles to downtown.
Spirits were high, and so was the temperature, nearly 90 degrees on a sunny February day. All walks of humanity were represented. Little kids bore signs saying "We Are Human" and "Reform Not Raids." College students and average folks carried placards comparing Arpaio to a terrorist and/or to an insane, straitjacket-bound autocrat. A handful of anarchists — real ones — waved black flags and taunted the few, decrepit pro-Joe racists on the sidelines.
At the head of the march, along with De la Rocha, were Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox and hubby Earl Wilcox, each wearing striped shirts with the word "UNSENTENCED" emblazoned on them. Hundreds of others wore the shirts, as well, in solidarity with the undocumented inmates paraded past the press in early February as part of Joe's infamous "200 Mexican March." The word "undocumented" on the men's shirts meant they had yet to be tried.
Before the crowd jumped off from Steele Indian School Park, The Bird spotted ex-Guadalupe Mayor Rebecca Jimenez in the crowd, along with one of her sons. There, too, was Raquel Teran of Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability — you know, the folks bulldogging the county Board of Supervisors regarding Joe's misdeeds. And nearby was Linda Brown of the Arizona Advocacy Network. Former state Senator Alfredo Gutierrez addressed the assembled before the get-down's getting down, as did Shannon Rivers of the Akimel O'odham people, who made some inspiring and ironic comments.
"Don't be afraid, my brothers and sisters," explained the tall Native American. "We can't force people out of this country unless the native people say so. And so far, we've welcomed everybody."
At the march's end, protesters packed the plaza at the federal courthouse, preceded by a troupe of Native American dancers led by Tonatierra's Tupac Acosta. The dancers blessed the proceedings with incense and chanting. Then demonstrators heard remarks from Derechos Humanos firebrand Isabel Garcia, Somos America's Hector Yturralde, United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcano, Lydia Guzman of the human rights organization Respect/Respeto, and, of course, Zack de la Rocha.
"By parading human beings shackled in chain gang stripes, in a misguided effort to collectively humiliate and to terrorize an entire population," said De la Rocha, "[Arpaio] reopened the wounds from which we all still suffer, by invoking the painful memories of slavery and segregation . . . By doing so, he has not only brought shame upon the state of Arizona, but is bringing shame upon the entire nation."
De la Rocha also saved some spank for Arizona's ex-governor.
"If Janet Napolitano seeks to perform her mission as head of the so-called Homeland Security Department," admonished De la Rocha, "she must realize the dangerous threshold that the 287(g) agreements have crossed. She must deal directly and quickly with the real threat to peace and security here in Arizona, by terminating the 287(g) agreement with Sheriff Arpaio's office and joining the courageous members of Congress who have begun an investigation into his criminal behavior."
Noticeably absent from the day's activities were Arizona political leaders, other than the aforementioned Supervisor Wilcox. Not even local über-lefties such as state Representative Kyrsten Sinema and state House Democratic Minority Leader David Lujan were seen. Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, who showed some backbone in battles with Arpaio last year, was also absent.
Ditto for Congressman Ed Pastor, whose Fourth Congressional District includes central and south Phoenix and Guadalupe. In other words, it's his constituents who're being ravaged by Arpaio's racist minions. And where was Pastor? Hiding out in his D.C. offices?
But even though Wilcox was the only pol showing her colors, the protest emboldened an entire community. The night before the march, De la Rocha gave an impromptu a cappella performance at Tonatierra, on Seventh Street just south of Roosevelt. He spoke about the cathartic need for people who have been victimized and oppressed to resist.
And resist they did. At one point, this wacky warbler spotted two ladies, who're probably Hispanic soccer moms, wearing T-shirts that screamed: "Fuck Arpaio." Which pretty much says it all.
DUCK AND COVER
Naturally, the county's top cop shrugged off thousands in the streets protesting his Geritol-addled rule. In a hastily called press conference on the day of the march, he acted as if his highly paid team of flacks hadn't told him who Zack de la Rocha is.
"I got DMX in my jail; I don't worry about this guy," Joe Arpaio sputtered, adding, "Who is this guy, la Rocha or something?"
But if a march of several thousand and the presence of a rock star were no big deal, as Joe claimed, then why did he see the need to hold a press conference denouncing the whole thing? And what the hell does DMX have to do with De la Rocha? Maybe Joe thinks they're the same thing because they're both of color?
In large part because of De la Rocha's presence, the demo garnered gads of national pub (its massiveness didn't hurt either). The Los Angeles Times covered the action, as did Reuters, and well-read news and opinion sites such as the Huffington Post and Daily Kos.
The coverage spotlighting opposition to Arpaio and to his 287(g) agreement with the feds comes at a bad time for the sheriff, with U.S. congressmen, such as House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, denouncing Joe and asking that he be investigated by new U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and by Department of Homeland Security Director Napolitano.
Interestingly, only local news outlets — such as the Arizona Republic and KTAR 92.3 FM — devoured the red herring thrown out by Arpaio flack Lisa Allen that some guy toting a sign reading "Death to Arpaio means freedom for America" should be booked into jail. Identified as Hugo X. Montaigu, the man tried to park at the VA Hospital before the march, was asked to leave, and ultimately ended up cited by VA police for disorderly conduct. He also had a gun, which the VA cops confiscated before releasing him.
(Just for the record, other than this kerfuffle, which few knew about at the time, the march was peaceful. Phoenix PD informs that there were no arrests.)
The Republic's snap news team has regurgitated that the MCSO is investigating what it considers a threat against the sheriff. You know, like all of the other bogus investigations of phony death threats the MCSO spends hundreds of thousands of clams investigating. So far, not one of them has ever panned out for poor old Joe, who's just dying to be threatened with assassination.
Hey, Montaigu may be nuttier than a Payday bar, but (sorry, Lisa) the sign he was carrying is protected speech.
According to the ACLU's Dan Pochoda, you can walk down the street in broad daylight with a T-shirt on that says "Death to Arpaio," "Death to Bush," or "Death to the King of Thailand," and it's covered under this little thing in the U.S. Constitution called the First Amendment.
Finally, a note on the asinine statements of the Republic's schoolmarmish E.J. Montini, who after hearing about the thousands in the street, could come up only with some quibble about how he thinks it's a false analogy to compare the object of the crowd's scorn to Bull Connor, proud enforcer back in the day of segregation in Birmingham, Alabama.
Has Montini ever heard of the exotic literary device called a metaphor? Sure, Joe's not turning the fire hoses and the dogs loose on protesters (though he would if he could), but his ill deeds are just as nefarious. People die in his jails. And just as Connor defended Jim Crow, which ruled the South in the '50s and '60s, so does Arpaio delight in sticking it to Hispanics, misusing both federal and state laws to do so.
Arpaio's anti-brown activities are popular with Arizona's racist residents, and Connor's anti-black activities were equally popular with bigoted 'Bama-ites in his day. Connor's men beat and mistreated blacks under the color of the law. Arpaio's goons tear away Hispanic mothers from their children while wearing ski masks and wielding guns. Big difference, huh?
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
"Joe Arpaio is no 'Bull' Connor," wrote Montini. "Saying so is not only inaccurate. It's stupid. It diminishes the credibility of those who make the claim."
However, Montini gave no argument for why the analogy was imperfect. Nor did he even bother to call up the folks making the Bull Connor analogy, the activists at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. Know how The Bird knows? He phoned 'em up and asked whether Montini had called.
Did Montini go to the protest Saturday? Did he show up at Arpaio's "200 Mexican March"? Has he ever bothered to cover one of Arpaio's sweeps, or be on scene to monitor the misdeeds of Arpaio's black-masked deputies?
Not that The Bird can tell from anything he's written. But, hey, this cantankerous crow's willing to be surprised.