It was a familiar sight in front of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's downtown office yesterday afternoon. Another assembly of a dozen protesters or so had gathered and members of the media were waiting in tow.
Word eventually reached Joe that some multilingual, slightly-famous international recording artist was on his way to play some music or something. "Is he gonna sing my favorite song 'My Way,'" Arpaio asks.
Not quite Joe. This "singer-guy" happens to be Manu Chao and um, he's kind of a big deal.
Ahead of tonight's free Alto Arizona concert across the street from El Portal Restaurant at West Grant and S. 2nd Avenue, Manu stopped by the Wells Fargo building Arpaio has called home since 1998, to stand in solidarity with the protesters who have gathered tirelessly in an effort to oust the sheriff.
"A lot of people here are trying to fight against these new laws and I think it's important to come and see what's happening with my own eyes and do my part to better the world," Manu says. "My message [to Arpaio] would be, that it makes no sense to make more people suffer for something that is naturally coming. You cannot make war against a flow that is natural."
Other countries, such as Manu's native France and Spain, are dealing with immigration issues such as Arizona's. He says that around the world, the negative sentiment toward illegal immigration is also shrouded in hypocrisy. "We're here because we also know of this problem," he says in Spanish. He compares the treatment of illegals in Arizona to that of those in Europe, calling it a "terrible injustice."
"That [kind of treatment] doesn't lead to a good future in any society," he says.
It didn't take long for word of Arizona's own bigoted laws to travel across the ocean. The news, he explains, is that the situation regarding immigrants, illegals in particular, has reached a critical mass. They've also heard of the paranoia and fear immigrants feel when they go to buy bread, and face the possibility that they may not return home.
He hopes that this visit will offer Arizona immigrants some kind of support.
A mantra he repeated throughout the afternoon was that, "the youth is in the south; the west is old." A reference to the young legs immigrants are starting to stretch, compared to the old dogmatic rhetoric Arpaio and his ilk have spewed for years. "That's not poetry, that's a reality. Any kind of society needs youth."
Manu did in fact sing a song for Sheriff Joe, but it wasn't anything popularized by old blue eyes. He sang "Clandestino," ending his verse with, "Mano Negra, clandestino, Mexicano, clandestino, Boliviano, clandestino, Joe Arpaio, illegal."
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Arpaio may not have caught the serenade but he couldn't have been happy with Manu Chao's appearance. Upon Chao's arrival, the crowd of protesters and media shifted almost all of their attention to him. Arpaio waited patiently to engage this "singer" in dialogue but eventually threw in the towel and made his way back up to his lair.
"You can tell your singer has no guts to talk to the sheriff, I'm leaving."