Best Activists 2011 | The Puente Movement | People & Places | Phoenix
In Spanish, puente means "bridge." And the peace warriors of the Phoenix-based Puente Movement are building a bridge to an Arizona future free of nativism, bigotry, and hateful anti-immigrant laws pimped by the likes of state Senate President Russell Pearce. Yeah, they're nonviolent, but they kick much nativist hiney and have fun doing it. Their leader Sal Reza, can put a hundred thousand pro-immigrant protesters in the streets like it was nothing. Sometimes he and his people get arrested performing acts of civil disobedience, like their heroes Gandhi and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. And sometimes they're targeted for retaliation by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whom they regularly assail while protesting him outside his headquarters at the Wells Fargo Building downtown. It don't sweat 'em none. They know their vision will one day be triumphant, though they may have to wear a few steel bracelets in the meantime.
Burly and bearded with an elbow ever ready to bend, Drew Sullivan is a committed anarchist who can discuss the relative merits of the black bloc (where anarchists don black clothing and hide their faces during protests) or hold forth on the theories of Hakim Bey and Mikhail Bakunin while sucking back his sixth pint of Guinness and ordering six more.But you're as likely to see him on the front lines of an anarchist street brawl with neo-Nazis as you are in his favorite bar, tipping a few. And oddly for an anarchist and strident critic of capitalism, he owns a business, Ash Avenue Comics and Books, where debates over Batman and Robin and the Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips series Criminal take precedence over the theories of Pyotr Kropotkin and Pierre Joseph Proudhon. A modern contradiction, he is, with a lust for life and a passion for political theory wrapped up in one personality. He'd be as comfortable in a pub in London or a coffeehouse in Barcelona as he is with a comic book or a treatise. He's a bit of an anachronism, a return to the days of the Spanish Civil War, to the Haymarket Riot and Sacco and Vanzetti, and the times when being an "anarchist" actually meant something.
Yes, we know this museum is closer to Tucson than Phoenix, but the bottom line is that the Titan Missile Museum is the only missile site in the nation that the public can actually visit. So if you think in terms of the entire country, this missile museum is right in our backyard. And this place is like nowhere else in the Valley: It's a complex of steel-reinforced concrete, completely underground, with three-ton blast doors and a 103-foot Titan II missile. The missile silo, which was operational starting in 1963, was one of more than 32 Titan II silos throughout the country. The missile in Green Valley was de-activated in 1982 (along with the rest of the Titan IIs), but this is the only silo that survived demolition. And the museum still sees a lot of action — many scenes from the 1996 film Star Trek: First Contact were shot there, and the public can tour the facility. Tours include restored engines, the control room, and a simulated launch. There are even overnight stays in the crew facilities for more adventurous tourists.
It's bad enough that a gum-smacking idiot like Anthem Republican Lori Klein is a state senator, but then, Arizona's Legislature is filled to the brim with lightweights who've never evolved emotionally or intellectually past the eighth grade. She is also a class-A bigot and Mexican-hater, yet even that is fairly common these days in Sand Land's highest deliberative body.A water-carrier for the state's premier xenophobe, state Senate President Russell Pearce, Klein sticks out because she is so crass, so proud of being what she is: white trash. Along with her colleague in prejudice, state Senator Al Melvin, she gets her kicks during Senate hearings cracking jokes at any citizens and lobbyists who speak English with an accent. She once told Latino demonstrators outside the Capitol to go back to Mexico, despite the fact they were American citizens and legal residents. And she's infamous for reading a letter on the Senate floor from a substitute teacher filled with lies about Mexican-American school kids and how they'd rather be gangsters than get an education. When it was revealed that the letter was bunk, Klein was unapologetic. A loathsome, racist cretin, she has no place in public life, and yet there she sits in the Legislature, one more reason for the world to regard Arizona with horror, and one more reason for Arizonans to be embarrassed.

Best Pain in the Ass to Local Politicians

Carlos Galindo

Does anyone like Carlos Galindo? Well, he is happily married. And the sometimes abrasive talk-radio host can boast a loyal listenership for his various radio shows for different outlets. But he doesn't play well with the other immigrant activists in town. And he likes to pick verbal fights with those on the right and the left, even though he often refers to himself as an "unapologetic liberal."All the same, Galindo is like a portly, Latino version of Batman. When something's going down in the community, the dude is there. He might be protesting a lefty like Democratic state Senator Kyrsten Sinema, dogging racist legislators like wingnut state Senator Lori Klein, or harassing police officers going to a benefit for killer cop Richard Chrisman over at the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association's offices. We've seen Galindo confront racists, cops, tea baggers, other members of the news media, and prejudiced state Senate President Russell Pearce, who once shoved him after Galindo got his goat. Perfect, he ain't. But sometimes you need a streetfighter like Galindo to take on the bullies and cowards who pollute our public life. And if he pisses off folks as a consequence, for Galindo, that's the price of doing business.
Iraq war. Ring a bell? The second one, we mean, under Bush II. Cost nearly a trillion dollars (at last count), more than 4,400 in U.S. military lives, hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, and we still have freaking troops there. So what was that all about? Cheap oil? Sheesh, look at the gas pumps, boyo. Weapons of mass destruction? You mean, weapons of mass distraction. As we all know, the WMDs never existed. Anyway, when former president George W. Bush's slobbering top adviser and justifier, Karl Rove, came to speak at the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce's Forum Series last year (at a cost to attendees of $75 a head), the peaceniks over at the End the War Coalition threatened to "arrest" Rove as a war criminal. Of course, Rove is a war criminal. So are Bush and all of his ex-White House co-conspirators. The End the War Coalition brought zip-tie handcuffs to the event and signs indicting Rove for his part in an illegal war. They never got anywhere near Rove, natch. But the signs and the zip-ties sent a message: Rove is not beyond mankind's justice for his rationalizations for the invasion of Iraq. And there's always the International Criminal Court at The Hague, which at least in theory could do some real prosecutin' one of these days.
Faithful Word Baptist Church "Pastor" Steven Anderson's fear of faygelehs is well documented. He's perhaps best known for praying that President Barack Obama would die of cancer because he "has wrought lewdness in America." Anderson's highway of hate recently led him to teen pop star Justin Bieber, whom Anderson recently compared to a "sissified, effeminate twinkie." Anderson's got a problem with "metro-Christians," and was spouting off about the difference between feminine and effeminate when he started bashing Bieber during a recent sermon. Some call a fascination with Bieber's sexuality "Bieber Fever." In Anderson's case, it's just the ramblings of self-loathing, homophobic lunatic who seems a little too interested in the sexuality of a teenage boy — if you catch our drift.
Stephen Montoya is a throwback to the Clarence Darrow days of lawyerin', when attorneys (or at least some of them) stood up for the oppressed and battled injustice with a combination of skillful oratory and brilliant legal maneuvering. As a kid, Montoya considered becoming a doctor or a priest. Instead, he ended up a civil rights attorney. And whether he's blasting the government in one of the federal lawsuits brought against Senate Bill 1070, taking up the cause of pro-immigrant activist Sal Reza when he was banned from the state Senate by Russell Pearce (and subsequently arrested), or suing a business that's discriminated against its employees, Montoya's always flaying the mighty and making sure the scales of justice tip toward those whose rights have been trampled. Indeed, if there were more lawyers like Montoya, we get the distinct feelin' there might be fewer dead lawyer jokes.
Kyrsten Sinema, a state senator from Legislative District 15 and formerly a state House Representative for the same liberal enclave, is perhaps best known for being the foil for state Senate President Russell Pearce, opposing him in committee and on the House and Senate floors on a host of issues, the most notable being Pearce's dreaded breathing-while-brown statute Senate Bill 1070.Though she sprang from conservative Mormon stock, she's a fierce defender of lefty causes in a state that's so far right it could tilt the Earth on its axis. A lawyer who is currently working on her doctorate at Arizona State University's School of Justice and Social Inquiry, she's been a valiant champion for the poor, the underprivileged, and the state's immigrant population.Time magazine chose her as one of its 40 under 40 political up-and-comers, and she's served the Obama administration on its White House Health Reform Task Force. But we like her for spearheading the Democratic effort in the Legislature to oppose Pearce's nefarious proposals at every turn, albeit from the outnumbered ranks of the Democratic minority. This, she does, while claiming to "love" the belligerent bigot in purely Christian terms. That's why we encourage Sinema to "love" Pearce a little harder every day the Legislature's in session.

Best Voice Against Racial, Ethnic, and Religious Hatred

Bill Straus

Bill Straus can talk. And what he says is worth listening to. As regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of Arizona, he's the media's go-to guy when it comes to discussing the ever-broiling ethnic strife here in Sand Land, hate crimes, Senate Bill 1070, neo-Nazis, or the latest anti-Latino antics of state Senate President Russell Pearce and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.In a state where some civil rights groups (and we won't name names) are virtually invisible, Straus is always there to draw the bright line of what should be unacceptable in civilized society. Prejudice and hatred, and those who preach them, are his enemies. His friends are Hispanic, Asian, African-American, Hindu, Native American, and every variation of humanity under the sun. The gift of gab? That comes naturally. As a young man, he parlayed his verbal dexterity into a job announcing horse races. Then into talk radio, long before all talk-radio hosts were right-wing muttonheads. Now he uses those same skills to decry discrimination, racism, and bigotry of all kinds. His detractors say that Straus never shuts up. We hope he never does.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of