Feathered Bastard

Four MCSA/ACORN Members Freed after Being Arrested for Applauding

The four activists arrested by the MCSO Wednesday for applauding: from left, Jason Odhner, Kristy Theilen, Monica Sandschafer, and Joel Nelson.

After spending about 12 hours in jail, four members of ACORN and MCSA (Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability) who had been arrested for applauding during a public Board of Supervisors Meeting were released last night around 10:30 p.m. Two were released on $25 bonds, the other two were released on their own recognizance.

According to Arizona ACORN Director Monica Sandschafer, one of the four arrestees, the charges against her and Tucson ACORN director Kristy Theilen were for criminal trespass and disorderly conduct. Because she and Theilen had been arrested just this Monday during a peaceful protest outside a BOS executive meeting, a lawyer for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office argued at their hearing that their bond should be as high as $3,600. The MCAO attorney also wanted their Monday release revoked, but the judge declined both suggestions, citing a little thing known as freedom of speech, and granting Sandschafer and Theilen bail at $25.

Asked why she and the other three activists were arrested for applauding another speaker during the public comments section of the BOS meeting, when the video of the meeting clearly shows that many persons there were applauding as well, Sandschafer said she assumed it was retaliation.

"I think it was pretty clear we were being targeted based on the fact that we had done a sit in at their office on Monday," said Sandschafer, adding, "That's the business of the sheriff's office. You see it over and over again. This is the way they operate."

The other two activists collared yesterday, Jason Odhner and Joel Nelson, were apparently arrested just because they were sitting next to the two women. Odhner indicated that all four were ordered to rise by a sheriff's deputy. Shortly thereafter, he was told he was being arrested because he wasn't leaving, though a deputy was actually blocking his way.

"I feel like if I had shoved the deputy out of the way to get out of the building, he would have been more upset than if I hadn't left," shrugged Odhner. "What did he want me to do? I'm really not clear."

Arbitrary, heavy-handed and absurd? That's what the citizens of Maricopa County have come to expect from Sheriff Joe's deputies. The charge of targeted retaliation against Sandschafer and Theilen rings true. The MCSO delights in "building a jacket" on those who cross it, tagging them with unwarranted charges, and making them spend a day in custody as they are processed for bogus allegations.

Nowhere else in this nation would such a blatant abuse of power be tolerated as it is in this county. Those who believe they are safe from the MCSO's authoritarian tactics are sadly mistaken. As I noted in a Sept 16 column, in an item titled "Police State," no person is safe from the MCSO boot:

"Rich or poor, white or brown, powerful or meek, it doesn't matter. You might think you're an upstanding citizen, a pillar of your community, following the letter of the law, but the boot will still find your blemish-less neck and grind it mercilessly into the ground."

Our only hope here in this desert-bound banana republic of Maricopa County is that an Obama Justice Department, and a new U.S. Attorney for Arizona will eventually pay attention to the corrupt morass in which we dwell, and seek to drain this noxious swamp.

(I have video from yesterday's board meeting which I will post by this afternoon. So stay tuned. The footage just goes to show how ridiculous these arrests were in the first place.)

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