Ever since the MCSO's contract for police services with the town of Guadalupe was renewed earlier this year, a small band of residents of the square-mile town has sought to monitor the interaction of sheriff's deputies with Guadalupanos.
A month and a half ago, these half-dozen or so men and women acquired video cameras, underwent training given by the Phoenix organization Copwatch, and dubbed themselves the Citizens Camera Crew. Their mission: change the dynamic between Sheriff Joe Arpaio's boys in beige and the people who live in the half-Yaqui, half-Mexican-American burg of 5,500.
That relationship has been one of an occupying force toward the occupied. In other words, mutual contempt and suspicion. The re-signing of the contract made former Mayor Frankie Montiel so unpopular that he was demoted from mayor to councilman by his fellow council members.
The new mayor, Yolanda Solarez, is no Rebecca Jimenez — the courageous ex-mayor who defied Arpaio in early 2008, when the sheriff invaded the town for one of his anti-immigrant sweeps. But Solarez lacks Montiel's baggage. Also, new Vice Mayor Lupita Avelar has been a steadfast critic of the MCSO's continued presence in her community.
As for Guad's CCC, its acquisition of video cameras has ticked off beat deputies to no end. If there's one thing cops hate, it's being videotaped in the course of their duties. (Think Rodney King.) Thus, the CCC's members, who include Guadalupe activists Andrew Sanchez and William Robles, have become the targets for intimidation and outright retaliation.
Robles — who was named Best Guadalupe Activist in last month's New Times Best of Phoenix issue for his tireless efforts to combat violence and protest the sheriff inside and outside his town — has gotten the worst of it. Likely because he's been dogging sheriff's deputies with his camera 24/7 (an activity that's constitutionally protected, I might add).
Not long after Robles began committing MCSO patrols to tape, he was stopped late at night by two deputies in a marked car. Robles was walking home along the canal from Carl's Jr. The deputies asked to see his identification.
"I told them, 'I know my rights,'" Robles says. "'But this time,' I said, 'I will let you see it.'"
The deputies claimed they were asking for the IDs of everyone walking along the canal. Once they saw Robles' identification, they asked him if he worked for New Times and mentioned they had seen him covered in the paper recently.
"They just kept asking me over and over again, like three times, if I worked with New Times," Robles says. "I kept telling them no, that what I do, I do for Guadalupe."
Robles told the deputies he was going to call another CCC member, so that the stop could be recorded. (He didn't have his camera with him at the time.) The deputies, who gave their names as Whelan, serial number 1789, and Saladen, serial number 1174, decided that was a good time to bail.
The incident repeated itself on October 22, when Robles was approached in an unmarked car by two deputies, who identified themselves as Kaplan, serial number 1506, and Bar, serial number 1188 (at least it sounded like Bar on the videotape). This time, Robles had his camera and documented the pair as they queried him about his past, implying he may have been involved in criminal activity.
The suggestion was so ludicrous that even the deputies' boss, Lieutenant Ed Shepherd, who has worked Guadalupe for decades and knows who Robles is, found it absurd.
"He certainly seems to be a harmless sort of guy," Shepherd told me when I called him about the incidents. "If he wants to follow us around, that's okay with me."
Shepherd had heard about Robles' video camera, and he told me that the deputies believed New Times had given Robles his equipment. I informed him that we had not, that Robles doesn't work for New Times, even though he's not shy about letting Valley journalists know what's going down in Guadalupe.
The lieutenant advised me that he had already instructed his deputies to leave Robles alone.
"[Deputy] Loren Gaytan told me he had a video camera," said Shepherd of the MCSO's community liaison. "I said, 'So what? It's a free country. Let him take any videos he wants.'"
If Shepherd's attitude trickled down to his men, it did so in an odd way. On the evening of Saturday, October 24, Robles was taping deputies as they closed down a late-night party, a Saturday-night ritual because Guadalupe has an ordinance ordering all parties ended by midnight.
Present was Deputy Gaytan, who shined a flashlight in Robles' face. Gaytan covered his mug with a digital camera he was carrying. And he, sneakily, began to make Robles out as a snitch, speaking loud enough that the other Guadalupanos present could hear.
"I appreciate you helping us out here, William," Gaytan told Robles, as the latter captured it all on video.
"I ain't helping you out," Robles shot back.
"You're not helping us out?" Gaytan replied. "Why aren't you helping us out?"
Gaytan went on to imply that Robles was videotaping on the MCSO's behalf, even though Robles countered the implications. The mere suggestion that someone is a narc can be dangerous — possibly deadly — in Guadalupe, as well as in other places. Yet Gaytan persisted.
"Thanks, William," he and other deputies called out as they left, with two revelers in custody for underage drinking and other party-goers looking on.
"I'm not helping you. I'm against you guys," Robles retorted.
Gaytan — who also helped out on the MCSO's mysterious training operations in Honduras a couple of years ago and was, until recently, a federally deputized 287(g)-man — practically guaranteed with his statements that Robles would get jumped that night.
Indeed, as Robles walked home, four individuals attacked him from behind, smashing him on the head with a beer bottle, leaving a scar. They fought with Robles for about three minutes before running off.
When Shepherd was informed of Gaytan's pernicious lies and their aftermath, he wanted Robles to make a report on the assault.
"What's the point of talking to the sheriffs?" Robles wondered, when told of Shepherd's statement. "They're the ones who started this mess."
Andrew Sanchez said the MCSO was trying to turn people against the nascent Citizens Camera Crew. He promised a public-information campaign to get the word out about the MCSO's plan and said the group would take a hiatus until they could be sure of members' safety.
Sanchez's family and the retaliation they've suffered at the hands of the MCSO for their activism was documented in a New Times cover story by Village Voice Media Executive Editor Michael Lacey. It is part of our series "Are Your Papers in Order?"
As many in Maricopa County are aware, investigators with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's Department of Justice have been in town, looking into violations of civil rights and police abuse by Arpaio's MCSO.
Might I suggest they speak with William Robles and focus their attention for a moment on one Deputy Gaytan, who with his insidious prevarications, could have caused permanent injury, perhaps even death.
Virtually everyone who's anyone in Arizona's bigot community was present last week for a hate rally on the lawn of the state Capitol. Foremost was neo-Nazi-hugging, brown-bashing state Senator Russell Pearce, who is leading the campaign to put anti-Mexican apartheid bills on the ballot in 2010.
The bills would compel state law enforcement agencies to enforce — contrary to federal code — immigration law and make it a crime to be in Arizona without proper documentation.
Why doesn't Pearce just write a law making all Hispanics subject to search and detainment? That would be the practical effect of his racist proposals. Not that I want to give the guy, who once forwarded an e-mail from the neo-Nazi National Alliance to his supporters, any ideas.
Pearce duped the press into showing up by suggesting the governor call a special session of the Legislature to deal with immigration. Of course, this is not going to happen while the brain surgeons in the House and Senate try to solve the state's financial crisis. So, at the rally, Pearce instead focused on putting an initiative on the 2010 ballot, either through legislation or petition.
Pearce couldn't get these same proposals through the last session of the Legislature, even with a Republican majority in place. But Pearce is Arizona's Energizer Bunny of bigotry, driven by a thirst for revenge. See, back in the day, Pearce was shot by a Latino as he worked in Guadalupe as an MCSO deputy. And in 2004, his son Sean Pearce, now an MCSO deputy, was shot by a Latino while serving a search warrant.
For Pearce, the two incidents are casus belli against an entire ethnicity. And lest reporters forget, Pearce made sure, in a handout at the event at the Capitol, there was a 2004 news article from the East Valley Tribune mentioning the shootings of him and his son.
"[This is] a campaign that I intend to continue until it's resolved," Pearce declared.
Pearce intends to "resolve" the issue of immigration by criminalizing a class of human beings. His past unsuccessful legislative efforts focused on keeping Americans from marrying non-Americans and preventing children born in the United States to undocumented parents from getting birth certificates, even though such children are American citizens by virtue of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Who plans to help Pearce with his dubiously named "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act"? Why, all the usual suspects who participated in this prejudice powwow.
Former congressman and current talk-radio host J.D. Hayworth was there. Also County Attorney Andrew Thomas, whose office claims that an 18 percent drop in crime in Maricopa County is attributable to his persecution of immigrants.
What Thomas won't tell you is that crime is up in the unincorporated areas of Maricopa County, where illegal immigrant-hunter Joe Arpaio is his most vicious.
Nor will Thomas explain that his numbers include the more than 30 percent drop in serious crime in Mesa, which was announced by former police chief George Gascón before he left to be police chief in San Francisco. Gascón opposed Arpaio's sweeps and favored community policing that did not target Hispanics or any other specific group.
If the logic follows that going after Hispanics reduces crime, the results for Arpaio's and Gascon's agencies should be the opposite of what they are.
Of course, Sheriff Joe was there, too, hogging the mic as much as he could. Later, when I asked him to explain his quote in a GQ profile that all Mexican migrants are "dirty," he told me he was referring to garbage in the desert.
But the magazine quote had nothing to do with environmentalism. In the article, Arpaio repeated the canard that illegal aliens bring disease with them, saying, "They're all dirty." That's not a mere dis of litterbugs, Joe.
Cheering Joe and the rest were members of the extremist nativist group United for a Sovereign America, an organization that has accepted Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis into their ranks and meet-ups. U.S.A. founder Rusty Childress stood by, along with his perennial sidekick and Snuffy Smith impersonator Buffalo Rick Galeener. (It was Galeener who pleaded guilty in 2008 to urinating in public in front of a Latina and her child near the Macehualli Day Labor Center).
There also was Minuteman Chris Simcox, a dark-horse candidate for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination against Senator John McCain. The ex-kindergarten teacher and pseudo-tough guy has raised $20,000 — to McCain's $919,000 — according to the latest campaign filings.
State Senator John Huppenthal — known for recently beating the rap on charges of tearing a campaign sign out of an old lady's hands — was one of the last people to speak. He mostly puckered up to Pearce. I was about to suggest the pair go steady when Huppenthal threw out an odd statistic: "Less than 10 percent of our population has murdered over 50 percent of our police officers."
He later clarified that the 10 percent he was speaking about were illegal residents of Arizona. He told me he did not mean the stat to refer to cop killings nationwide.
First, Arizona's undocumented make up nowhere near 10 percent of the population. Arizona's total population is 6.5 million. According to recent conservative estimates published in the Arizona Republic, the state's illegal immigrant population is down about a third, to 350,000. That's about 5 percent of the total population. I knew the stat was bogus from jump and told Huppenthal so.
The legislator from Chandler couldn't remember where he'd gotten the statistic and suggested it might have been from Arizona Department of Public Safety. So I spoke to DPS Lieutenant Steve Harris, who said the agency doesn't track whether cop-killers are undocumented.
A representative for the federal government's Uniform Crime Reporting Program, which keeps stats on crime for the FBI, told me the same thing about its tracking.
When I got back to Huppenthal with this info, he told me that his office had found the statistic through its own research but said he couldn't locate the file on the subject.
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Thing is, I think Huppenthal knows better. At the Capitol, he made the following statement concerning illegal immigration:
"I'm a Statue of Liberty kind of guy. I came to this issue a little reluctantly."
Huppenthal was referring to the famous inscription at the base of Lady Liberty, the Emma Lazarus poem The New Colossus. You know, the one that reads, in part, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free."
His statement betrayed a glimmer of a conscience, despite the smear of the Mexican immigrant community that dropped from his lips. One day, many of those who've slandered immigrants will eat their words.