Flanked by community activists and fellow elected leaders at her El Portal restaurant in central Phoenix, Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox held aloft the recently-released U.S. Department of Justice report on Sheriff Joe Arpaio's racial profiling campaign against Sand Land Latinos, and praised it as a sort of Christmas card to county Hispanics.
"God sometimes gives us Christmas miracles," she told reporters after thanking Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez for the report. "In my mind, the Latino community deserves this. We deserve people...trying to put into writing the injustices that have affected the Latino community and all of Arizona."
She added, "Let this be the start of the end of Joe Arpaio and his reign of terror."
There was certainly the sense of validation at the event. Attorney and activist Antonio Bustamante called it a "monumental day."
Randy Parraz of Citizens for a Better Arizona referred to the report as a "good first step" and called today, "another day of accountability for Sheriff Arpaio."
Indeed, after three-plus years, the U.S. Department of Justice finally backed up through the findings of its civil investigation that Arpaio's office, in the words of Perez, "engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing, specifically....[the] racial profiling of Latinos, and unlawfully stops, detains and arrests Latinos."
Perez's report showed that "Latino drivers were four to nine times more likely to be stopped" by Arpaio's boys in beige.
Moreover, the MCSO engages in "discriminatory policing," stated the DOJ. It found that one-fifth of all stops by the sheriff's notorious Human Smuggling Unit were "in violation of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable seizures."
The Perez letter also detailed the MCSO's "discriminatory jail practices," as well as the MCSO's retaliation against critics of the sheriff or the MCSO's policies.
None of this, of course, was news to those speaking at the press conference. Which explains much of the enthusiasm displayed by the speakers.
In that vein, state Senator Steve Gallardo labeled Arpaio "America's most incompetent sheriff," and wondered aloud at Perez's announced intention of seeking the MCSO's cooperation.
"Do we really anticipate Sheriff Joe cooperating with the DOJ?" he asked, rhetorically.
Like Parraz, Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski, and others, Gallardo also called for Arpaio's resignation.
State Representative Ruben Gallego repeated the demand for Arpaio's harakiri, stating that Arpaio "needs to go," though afterward he and others of those asking for Arpaio to serve himself up as Christmas stew to his enemies, admitted to me that this was unlikely to occur.
Latino advocate Lydia Guzman of Respect/Respecto, a tireless Joe-foe whose work against Arpaio began years ago, shared the then "breaking news" that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had severed its 287(g) jails agreement with the MCSO.
She then called for the DOJ to take the MCSO and its jails into receivership, a call echoed by other panelists at the presser.
Actually, I found that announcement from DHS the most significant one of the day, far more significant than Perez's, which for all its wonderful language, and the threat of a civil lawsuit against the MCSO, still held out a possible olive branch of mediation and working with the jefe of Sand Land.
This, despite the fact that DHS had maintained the jails agreement with MCSO in 2009, after not renewing its 287(g) memorandum of understanding with Arpaio for the use of 287(g) officers in the street. See, 287(g) is a section of federal law that allows the feds to cross-train deputies to be de facto immigration agents.
Such agents were of great value to Arpaio when he was engaged in the very racial-profiling condemned by Perez's report, actually a 22-page letter to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.
(You can read Perez's letter to Montgomery in full, here.)
To this effect, Phoenix civil rights champion Sal Reza blasted the feds for "enabling" Arpaio.
"The remedial measures are ineffective," Reza stated of Perez's recommendations to MCSO. "These measures are giving Arpaio a pass to keep playing games."
Perez's letter gave Arpaio 60 days to come to an agreement, or face suit in federal court.
But Reza said it wasn't enough.
"Arpaio has a record of not complying with what the feds want him to do," Reza said. "Remedial action has to come immediately."
Later during the event, Bill Straus, Regional Director of the Arizona Anti-Defamation League, noted at one point that prejudice is "like a virus, it needs a host."
And as the report makes clear, the MCSO has played host for racial and ethnic prejudice against Latinos.
Outside, El Portal, demonstrators, pro-and con-Joe shouted at each other, as the the presser wound down. Indicating that the battle to remove Arpaio from power ain't over by a long shot.
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Feathered Bastard: Joe Arpaio Hammered by Politicians, Activists Praising DOJ Report