Feathered Bastard

Another Day in the Police State: Four Activists Arrested for Applauding at Supervisors Meeting

While the rest of the civilized world is preparing for Christmas, here in Maricopa County, the Board of Supervisors is in complete meltdown, and members of the public are being arrested for applauding.

I kid you not. Following on the heels of Monday's arrest of several women in a peaceful demonstration by MCSA (Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability) outside an executive BOS session, four individuals were arrested today during the public comment portion of the Supervisors' formal meeting, apparently for clapping. Two of the women collared today, Monica Sandchafer and Kristy Theilen, were part of the group taken into custody Monday as they were sitting quietly in a lobby area on the 10th floor of a county building.

Today's arrests include Quaker and community activist Jason Odhner, and ACORN organizer Joel Nelson. According to BOS spokesperson Richard De Uriarte, who attended today's meeting, BOS Chairman Andy Kunasek asked the audience to refrain from applauding speakers making comments during the call to the public. But when audience members continued to applaud those addressing the Supervisors, sheriff's deputies swooped in.

"Supervisor Kunasek asked them to refrain from applauding because the next speakers couldn't hear their names being called," said De Uriarte. "But then they stood up and gave one of the speakers an ovation, and at that point, Protective Services and sheriff's deputies started escorting them out. The arrests were made at that point."

Community activist Dan Peitzmeyer attended the proceedings. He said that when he arrived at the BOS meeting, there were numerous sheriff's SWAT team members present, boding ill.

"[Chairman Kunasek] called on someone to speak, but you couldn't hear who he called on," said Peitzmeyer, who is a regular attendee of BOS events. "When the applause died down, he said, `Please don't applaud, it makes it difficult for the person I called to hear their name.' He called her name again. The woman gets up to go down there, and the sergeant comes in and tells her she's under arrest.

"She said, `He just called on me to speak,'" recounted Peitzmeyer. "And he said, `You're under arrest, you can't speak.' Somebody else said something like, `What's the meaning of this?' And they said, `You're under arrest too.' It was like a police state thing."

Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox issued a statement following the meeting calling the arrests "excessive and unwarranted."

"This was unfortunate," Wilcox stated of today's events, "and I was embarrassed for county government."

Wilcox noted that she understood that "law enforcement is in charge of security at our public meetings." However, she pointed out that, "These are our meetings, public board meetings, and our citizens deserve full access and an opportunity to address public issues."

She called on the board to "reexamine and revise" its security procedures, and stated her opinion that security should be provided by the Department of Protective Services alone, and not the MCSO.

Wilcox is to be applauded for her stand, though applauding her for it may earn you a night in the 4th Avenue Jail. Never is it more clear, considering the multi-count indictment of Supervisor Don Stapley and the County Attorney's ongoing fight with the BOS, that Maricopa County is run by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his pasty-faced henchman Andrew Thomas. The Thomas-Arpaio junta even controls the BOS meetings like Saddam Hussein used to control his cabinet back in the day.

Arresting people for applauding. It's an all new low for the MCSO.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons