January 21, 2010 | 10:18am
According to the Rep's E.J. Montini, if you oppose Sheriff Joe Arpaio and you lose at the polls, you should just keep your gob shut.
Wow, talk about a mouthpiece for the little old ladies in Sun City, and Arizona's reactionary, nativist contingent. Montini's certainly earned his many pizzas from Arpaio with his latest ditty, "Protesting Arpaio is misguided."
"If we get rid of Arpaio and Thomas, the next sheriff and county attorney will have to follow the same policies or get thrown out of office," squeaks Montini, whose credibility has been seriously compromised over the years by kissing up to Joe.
I include in his kiss-ups Montini's lame attempts at criticism of the sheriff's office. Montini is careful to never get too critical. That is a calculated plan of action on his part. And it keeps the pizzas coming. If you ask me, someone needs to send the guy a bucket of chicken.
But Montini's contention that protesting Arpaio's misdeeds is a dead end is just dead wrong. The protest was picked up by national and international press, which does have an impact on decision-makers in DC and elsewhere.
Actually, the persistent agitation against Arpaio's abuses has born and continues to bear fruit. In early 2009, the Department of Justice opened an investigation into alleged civil rights violations by the MCSO, in large part because politicians and activists were demanding such an investigation.
In April of 2009, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a hearing into the 287(g) program and Arpaio's use of that program. Then Mesa police chief George Gascon testified, as did a victim of racial profiling -- Julio Mora -- an American citizen handcuffed during a raid on a Phoenix landscaping company because of the color of his skin.
Activist organizations such as Sal Reza's Puente
, the unfairly maligned ACORN, and MCSA -- Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability, were among the groups who pressed U.S. Congressmen to hold the hearing into Arpaio and 287(g).
Massive demonstrations, organized -- as this recent one was -- by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and Puente, maintained the pressure, as did activism that was not nearly so visible. If there had been no push-back to Arpaio in 2008 and 2009, if activists had not dogged Arpaio's every sweep while Montini was enjoying tea and biscuits with his feet up on his desk, Arpaio would likely have kept his 287(g) street authority.
Though Arpaio tried hard to spin this loss to his favor (he continued with his sweeps nonetheless), the loss of the 287(g) street authority was a blow to the MCSO, though hardly a fatal one. And the jerking of the street 287(g) has engendered increased scrutiny by the press. As Montini massages his master, other journalists and commentators continue to probe Arpaio and find mountains of fault.
Even in Montini's own paper, ICE honcho John Morton was recently forced to rationalize ICE's continued 287(g) partnership with Arpaio in his jails. Why did he have to justify it? Because 10,000-plus protesters in the street last Saturday forced the issue. And they will continue to force the issue, until Arpaio loses the jail 287(g) too.
There is now a federal grand jury investigating Arpaio and the MCSO's abuses of power. This was brought about -- in no small part -- by people demanding that Arpaio's intimidation of public officials, his retaliatory tactics, and his bogus arrests of those who stand in his way, that all this be investigated. It was also the result of an FBI probe into Arpaio, which in turn has taken place because of citizens complaining about the MCSO targeting them.
But Montini counsels do-nothingism. If you lose on election day, you just have to lump it till the next election day, no matter how much suffering and evil goes on in the meantime. If Arpaio is indicted by the feds, Montini'll pooh-pooh that too. Same if Arpaio catches a conviction and is forced to resign.
Should this happen, the voters will just elect another Arpaio and another Andrew Thomas, claims Montini.
But this is where Montini is particularly blockheaded. The situation between elections is not static. If Arpaio has to step down, the county Board of Supervisors will appoint an interim replacement. And given the ongoing war between the BOS and the sheriff's department, I can guarantee you they will not be appointing David Henshershott.
If the MCSO has an honest administrator, the corruption will start oozing to the surface like a tsunami of green slime. And what will happen to Thomas if his Sith partner Arpaio goes down? I suspect, as a result, he will not attain the brass ring of the state AG's office. At the very least, it will give the Dems a truckload of ammo to use against him.
There is another calculation to make: If the majority of the electorate in any county, state or what have you supports injustice, clings to racism, and believes in bigoted policies toward an oppressed minority, should you do nothing? True, registering people to vote, and supporting candidates you believe in is very important. But what if such mainstream efforts fail over and over again? Yes, you should never say die, but do you just keep your mouth shut in the meantime?
The battles over women's liberation, gay rights, and civil rights for African-Americans were not won by people who'd cut out their tongues. Far from it. And what about the morality of sitting on your hands while injustice flourishes?
I'm reminded of two famous quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
"Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better."
If Montini had been writing for a paper in the Deep South during the civil rights movement, would he have counseled King to keep his trap shut, not to march, not to agitate against elected officials -- as King most certainly did?
But that was different, some will argue. It was, and it wasn't. If King were around today, I tend to think he'd be out in the streets of Phoenix, alongside Sal Reza.