As I promised in a previous blog post, I participated in a national conference call this morning, which featured the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network, ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis, Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, Pablo Alvarado of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP, and other civil rights leaders from around the country.
The speakers called for Sheriff Joe Arpaio's removal or resignation, the stripping of his 287(g) authority by the Department of Homeland Security, his continued investigation by the feds, and, ultimately, an end to the 287(g) program. Both Sharpton and Lewis promised to participate in future actions in Maricopa County to oppose Arpaio, and Sharpton stressed the importance of Arizona as a battleground for civil rights. They labeled Arpaio a 21st Century Bull Connor, and insisted he must be stopped.
"You cannot render the people in this county in Arizona to pre-Mandela South Africa," stated Sharpton, adding, "That is really what they have reduced us to, that if you don't have a passbook, you are considered an illegal immigrant. This is pre-Mandela South Africa tactics."
Sharpton also preached unity between Hispanic and African-Americans on the issue.
"We must stop Arpaio to stop the spread of racial profiling," said Sharpton. "It is imperative on the African-American community to stand with the Latino community, the Latino community to stand with the Asian community. This is a human rights issue. You cannot have human rights for some and not for all. We must stand with our brown brothers and sisters...this is a national outrage."
The NAACP's Rev. Barber also spoke out for cooperation between blacks and Latinos on the abuses of Arpaio and the injustice of the 287(g) program.
"We must stand together, all of us, black and brown," intoned Rev. Barber. "Certainly the NAACP both in the state of North Carolina and nationally stands against this law [287(g)] and the actions of any sheriff, including the one in Arizona, who attempt to...suspend the Fourth Amendment of our Constitution."
I asked Rev. Sharpton about some columnists here in Sand Land who do not find the comparison between Arpaio and the infamous Bull Connor, or Arizona now and the South in the 1960s to be accurate.
"The analogy to Bull Connor is that Bull Connor used brutal methods," Sharpton responded. "Bull Connor violated peoples' civil rights. Bull Connor seemed to use his position in an unfair way. Then I don't know how someone could say that it's not the same. If we're saying the situations of immigrants and blacks were different, the situations of all people...are different. I think we've got to stop being tribalistic in fighting civil rights causes...All of us need to stop comparing disparities, and start correcting disparities..I think these frivolous arguments are excuses not to confront the issue."
It was a good call all around, and another sign that the ground is shifting beneath Arpaio's feet. The fact that the NAACP and Sharpton's National Action Network are involved ups the ante considerably. The more Arpaio's racial profiling and other civil rights violations receive national scrutiny, the more likely it becomes that Arpaio will eventually be reined in.