Randy Parraz of the Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability following his grilling of the Supes this past Thursday.
Maricopa County Board of Supervisors meetings resemble a cross between kabuki theater and Stalinist show trials. Brown-shirted MCSO deputies line the walls. Speakers are cut off at three minutes, or threatened with ejection. The five members of the Board of Supervisors sit up on a raised horseshoe, studying computer screens before them, pompous and god-like. Andrew Kunasek, the Board's Chairman, looks like he was pulled straight from central casting for the role of villain, name, pointy features and all. Kunasek bangs his gavel with all the moral authority of a totalitarian functionary. At Thursday's contentious meeting, even when he stated in response to a speaker's question that, "I believe in the [U.S.] Constitution," he did so with clenched teeth, and restrained vengeance in his eye.
MCSA's lead organizer Raquel Teran fires up the crowd outside the BOS meeting.
The question that prompted Kunasek to reply in such a fashion came from Randy Parraz, of Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability. Parraz was the last of several speakers repping the new group, which made its debut at the Board of Supes meeting on Thursday. And what a debut it was, packing the BOS chambers with hundreds. A hundred-plus more were turned away at the door, told they could not be accommodated, and had to watch the proceedings via TV from another room. Parraz was the last and most animated of MCSA's speakers. From the podium, he did his impersonation of Al Pacino in And Justice for All. For three minutes, he put the Supes on trial. I kept waiting for him to say, "And you're out of order. And you're out of order..."
Instead, Parraz was asking each Supe if he or she would take a step, little or small, to implement Title Six of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Only Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox seemed to answer in the affirmative. Kunasek replied as has been stated above.
Parraz also asked the Supes if, "To ensure greater accountability and transparency, would you support a recommendation that Sheriff Arpaio come before this body to account for his department's expenditures on a monthly basis, yes or no?"
"Mr. Stapley?" he asked.
"I don't think that's an appropriate way to do public business," harrumphed District 2 supervisor Don Stapley.
Parraz: "I think that's a, `No.' Mr. Kunasek?"
"We get reports on all the budgets," scowled Kunasek.
And away it went, until Parraz ran out of time, but refused to yield, despite the protestations of Kunasek, who ultimately rose from his seat, banging his gavel and pointing his finger. A sheriff's deputy approached Parraz menacingly. At that point, Parraz, turned from the podium, signaled to his comrades, who all rose as one and left the building.
"You're financing a criminal," yelled one pro-immigrant activist.
"I was born and raised here," cried another. "I have a right to speak."
"Si, se puede!" declared another.
ACORN members, who had been denied entry to the BOS meeting, flood the plaza in front of the Supes' chambers.
Outside, the crowd was swelled by those who had been excluded earlier, a red sea of ACORN shirts, ACORN standing for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, a lefty, grassroots organization. MCSA's lead organizer Raquel Teran whipped the crowd into a frenzy with a bullhorn-augmented address. Afterwards, Teran told me that the group had attempted to meet with the Supes individually, but that only Mary Rose Wilcox responded to their repeated inquiries. I can believe it. The Supes are notoriously unresponsive to citizens and the press. Especially those who might be critical of their actions.
One protester's sign remembering Scott Norberg.
After all the protests, Sheriff Arpaio showed up, took the podium inside and made it clear who runs the joint.
"I am the elected sheriff," he lectured the Supes. "I make the decision on how to run my office. You know that you don't do that."
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Actually, the Supes do have enormous power over Arpaio because they control the county's purse strings. They just elect not to use that power.
Another sign remembering Clint Yarbrough.
That day the Supes ok'd the county's budget unanimously, including Arpaio's part of it. If the Supes continue to be unresponsive to the continuing outcry against Arpaio, there need to be more demonstrations such as the one on Thursday. Many say the time for massive civil disobedience has come. And considering the intransigence and arrogance of certain public officials, and the continued persecution of the undocumented in this state, I would tend to agree that such nonviolent protest as we saw in the South during the civil rights movement or all across America during the Vietnam War, is required.
The Supes are being blamed for Arpaio's eff-ups. Rightly so.