In a daring act of civil disobedience in downtown Phoenix this evening, at least four activists occupied a tall crane near Central Avenue and Jefferson Street and deployed a huge banner that read "Stop the Hate," with red lines crossing out "287(g)" and "1070."
Phoenix Fire Department trucks and Phoenix Police cars blocked off the area as bystanders watched two of the demonstrators hang suspended hundreds of feet in the air, readying to unfurl the banner between them.
A police helicopter circled overhead, with the pilot warning the protesters through a loudspeaker that they were trespassing and should get down immediately.
The crane-scalers paid the helicopter no heed, and unfurled the banner to the cheers of the crowd below.
"What's 287(g)?" asked an employee of a nearby pharmacy who'd stepped outside to watch the stunt.
I told him that was the federal program that allows local police officers to enforce federal immigration law.
Nearby a gaggle of news crews, Scott Walker with the Phoenix Fire Department informed me that firemen had received a call around 6 p.m. of what was going on and that the fire department had taken precautions to catch the demonstrators if anyone fell.
He said they had been told that the protesters were experienced climbers and would descend as soon as the banner had been deployed. Walker told me the daredevils would be immediately taken into custody by Phoenix cops once they came down.
In a press release sent out by the group, which is calling itself "Stop the Hate," the unnamed activists stated in part,
"SB 1070 and the federal program 287g are hateful laws. President Obama has the power to immediately stop them both.
"We came to Arizona to support those at the epicenter of one of the largest human rights crises of our time. We join Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Cardinal Mahoney, and an outraged global community in denouncing SB 1070 in its entirety."
You can read the entire statement below.
On hand watching the event was Puente activist Carlos Garcia, who was arrested last week during a demonstration at the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Courthouse. He told me that he thinks we may see more actions like this over the next couple of days.
"Folks aren't happy with the judge's ruling," he said, referring to federal Judge Susan R. Bolton's decision earlier in the day to enjoin part, but not all, of SB 1070.
He added, "It's amazing that these folks are risking their lives to do this."
I overheard one fireman close to me exclaim, "Those guys have balls."
I second that thought.
(Update: Puente has posted a video of the unfurling, which you can watch, here.)
The activists' press release: