MCSA firebrand Randy Parraz, who was arrested today outside the BOS auditorium.
In what will surely be viewed as a black day for the Maricopa County Supervisors' relations with the public, Randy Parraz, an organizer with the Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability, was arrested outside of the Supervisors' auditorium this morning. The arrest came during an MCSA demonstration demanding that the Supes address Sheriff Joe Arpaio's abuses of power.
According to Raquel Teran, MCSA's lead organizer, Parraz was collared after exiting the building, following a request that he leave. Parraz and about 100 members of MCSA were speaking out of turn, insisting that MCSA be placed on the board's agenda. Teran did not see Parraz being arrested, but the arrest was confirmed by Supes spokesman Richard de Uriarte. Neither Teran nor De Uriarte knew what precipitated the arrest. MCSO flack Paul Chagolla has not responded to this reporter's query concerning the cuffing of Parraz.
"The Board of Supervisors is clearly trying to shut the public up," said Teran. "They are not allowing people to speak on Arpaio's racist policies."
Last week, MCSA enacted a similar demonstration, whereby its members interrupted a BOS meeting, demanding that the Supes address their concerns about Arpaio's racial profiling, and other issues. About 300 demonstrators exited that BOS meeting singing My Country Tis of Thee and waving American flags. Sheriff's deputies, who provide security for Supervisors meetings, then locked the doors, preventing reporters, MCSA demonstrators and other members of the public from entering or re-entering. This, in direct violation of Arizona's open meetings law.
In acknowledgment that the public meetings statute had been violated, the Supes scheduled a do-over meeting for today at 10 a.m., first announcing that it was to be held on the 10th floor of the county building at 301 W. Jefferson. At the last minute, it was switched to the Supes' auditorium, where such meetings are usually held.
What does this say about the BOS, that it first violates the state's open meetings law, then a member of the public, a critic of the Supes, is arrested outside the meeting on public property? It says that the BOS is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office, and part of a police state which rules this county with an iron fist.
More on this developing story as I get it. In the meantime, check out this link to MCSA's debut demonstration at a Supervisors powwow in June.
UPDATE: Witnesses to Parraz's arrest report that Parraz was targeted by a small contingent sheriff's deputies after he exited the auditorium where the BOS meeting was being held. Though other protesters were present nearby Parraz when MCSO ordered them away from the building, they were not encircled and nabbed, as was Parraz.
"They pushed me out of the way to get to Randy," said Corinne Widmer, a volunteer with MCSA. "There were six or seven of them surrounding him. And when he asked them why (he had to leave), that's when he was taken away in handcuffs."
Another witness, Ivan Brickman, also an MCSA member, confirmed Widmer's account, telling me that he believed that the sheriff's deputies had specifically gone after Parraz, despite the fact that four or five other folks were standing out there with Parraz, immediately outside the Supervisors' auditorium.
"We were all standing in front of there, but only Randy was arrested," Brickman explained. "After Randy was arrested, the rest of us walked back down to the main plaza there."
Several sources have informed me that Parraz was arrested for criminal trespass, even though the area outside the auditorium is public, with people usually passing to and from the nearby government buildings.
MCSA lawyer and activist Danny Ortega came out after Parraz was arrested, and was also ordered away from the front of the building. Ortega encountered MCSO flack Paul Chagolla, and asked him why Parraz was arrested. Ortega was told it was because Parraz failed to obey an order.
"'I am telling you we gave him an order to leave and he disobeyed it,'" Ortega recalled Chagolla as saying, adding, "Chagolla said it was a lawful order. I don't think it was a lawful order. I don't know how you can make someone leave a public place."
The incident calls to mind the arrest of the ACLU of Arizona's legal director Dan Pochoda on a bogus trespassing charge last year. Pochoda recently beat that rap, and is suing the county for $400K.
Guess who pays when someone is wrongfully arrested by the MCSO? You and me. The taxpayers.
"Randy asserted his right to stand there as a citizen of this county," remembered Brickman of the MCSA organizer, who is still in custody as I type this. "He told them he was on public land. The sheriff's deputy replied, `It doesn't matter, it's still private property.'"
Apparently, the MCSO not only picks and chooses which laws they want to enforce, they get to make them up as they go along as well. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Maricopa County.