Sheriff Joe Arpaio is officially freaking out over the May 2 anti-Arpaio Walk for Respect, which will begin at 9 a.m. tomorrow at the Wells Fargo building downtown (100 West Washington Street) and continue on to Estrella Jail, site of a litany of abuses against female inmates. A press release now circulating from his office talks of how a shakedown of inmates and visitors began at 3 p.m. today. The shakedown is presumably to search for contraband. In reality, Arpaio is inflaming the situation and punishing his prisoners because thousands of protesters will tomorrow excercise their First Amendment rights in the march. You can read the press release in its entirety, here. An e-mail message from MCSO to the media instructs them that the shakedown "entails setting up road blocks and car searches in a square mile area around the Durango Jail facility."
"The last thing we need is inmates being incited into violence by these activists protesting against my office,"Arpaio says in the release.
As predicted by Phoenix civil rights activists Sal Reza in a previous blog post of mine, the MCSO is placing its facilities in lockdown tomorrow (or, "security override," in the words of the press release). Arpaio says this is "because of the protest," and that inmates will be confined to their cells "for the duration of the day."
There is evidence that the inmates support the march. A letter from the women of Estrella Jail was published on this Web site. The letter cries out for help from anyone who reads it. Also, I recently spoke with a Mexican national released from Joe's jails who asked not to be named. This person believes the prisoners would support the Walk for Respect, despite the privations they will suffer.
In addition, several sources in law enforcement and in the activist community have informed me of intelligence they have indicating that provocateurs will infiltrate the march tomorrow and try to pick fights with deputies and armed counter-protesters. This will be an attempt to ruin the march by inciting violence and making it look as if the protesters sparked it. Fortunately, the marchers will have their own security, members of the Phoenix Police Department will be escorting the march, and there will be Department of Justice observers on hand. Hopefully, this will be enough to thwart the infiltrators should they attempt any shenanigans.