Best Attempt to Arrest a War Criminal 2011 | End the War Coalition's attempt to "arrest" Karl Rove | People & Places | Phoenix
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.

The Book of Matthew tells us, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." Every time we hear that passage of scripture, we can't help but think of Pastor Warren H. Stewart Sr. of Phoenix's First International Baptist Church. A doctor of divinity, Stewart thirsts for righteousness like no one else we know, calling on the powerful tradition of spiritual leadership and social advocacy that's characteristic of African-American churches.

With impassioned sermons from the pulpit and speeches at civil rights demonstrations, Stewart led the fight two decades ago for an Arizona holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. Now, he helps lead the fight against anti-immigrant sentiment in this state, joining forces with Latinos and people of all colors who demand righteousness when it comes to the treatment of the undocumented. In the case of the King holiday, Stewart's "thirst" was slaked in 1992 after years of struggle. Which gives promise that one day, his "hunger" for immigration reform will also be fulfilled.

Best Street Chalker with a Social Conscience

Peggy Plews

Margaret "Peggy" Plews has devoted her life to advocating for the plight of Arizona's incarcerated. By her lonesome, she maintains the Prison Abolitionist website, dedicated to the eradication of the "prison industrial complex." To this end, she maintains correspondence with prisoners in the Arizona Department of Corrections, who tip her off to untimely deaths, abuse from guards, systemic neglect, and poor living conditions. She reports it all on her website, much to the chagrin of ADC satraps.But that's not all Plews is up to. She also writes chalk graffiti on sidewalks and walls all over Phoenix, conveying anti-establishment messages of love. Plews is a dreamer, to be sure. She dreams of a day when there are no prisons. A pipe dream, sure. But Plews has no problem playing Don Quixote. She revels in the role.
Who's watching the detectives? And the patrol cops, and the highway patrol, and the sheriff's deputies? Phoenix Copwatch, natch. Started in 1998 by ostensible anarchists, Copwatch trains observers to monitor the po-po and videotape them as they pull over cars or stop folks on foot. The Copwatchers are there to "stop police brutality," and it's notable that Officer Friendly tends to be a lot friendlier when he's being videotaped. (Well, who isn't?) Copwatchers have been especially effective in monitoring Sheriff Joe Arpaio's anti-immigrant sweeps of Latino neighborhoods in the Valley. Under the collective gaze of Copwatch, the sweeps became a game of cat and mouse, with MCSO deputies as the mice. Video of possible civil rights violations was turned over to the ACLU, and if Arpaio's boys in beige were never waylaid, at least they were met toe-to-toe by the activists' critical eyes.
Sergeant Al Ramirez is the coolest kind of cop: He prevents bad stuff from happening, all while protecting your First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly. A good day for him is not arresting anybody. His mission is making sure people on opposing sides of an issue holler and fuss at each other, but never come to blows and end up going home without incident.That's a tall order when you're assigned, as Ramirez has been for many years, to the Phoenix Police Department's Community Response Squad, which is charged with keeping the peace at demonstrations and protests of all kinds, from rallies by the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement to marches by those opposed to Senate Bill 1070. Often, Ramirez is in the middle, making sure people can express themselves, whatever their political affiliations, without violence ensuing. He's been a cop for decades and has the wisdom to know that it's better to talk people down than threaten arrest. Though in case you get any ideas, those handcuffs on his belt still work, bro, and he's got forearms as big as Popeye's, in case you choose to tango instead of talk.
Talk about an easy act to follow! Andy Thomas quit his gig as Maricopa County Attorney to run for higher office (and lose) after laying waste to the concept of dispensing justice equally during his six years at the helm. Hell, the demagogic Harvard law school grad is probably going to lose his ticket to practice law, at the very least. Montgomery, who assumed office in January after working a few years for Thomas as a prosecutor, has every bit the hang-'em-high bent of his notorious predecessor. But that's where the resemblance ends. Montgomery took pains from the start of his tenure to bridge the chasm between his office and the two other county government branches — judicial and legislative. He is not going to have a pliant Barnett Lotstein, Phil McDonnell, Lisa Aubuchon, or Sally Wells-type (Andy Thomas lieutenants) do his bidding. We will continue to disagree with him about a lot of stuff. But a breath of fresh air is what Bill Montgomery certainly has been.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of