Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio, Salvador Reza Go Toe-To-Toe, in Fourth Avenue Jail

A cluster of supporters were there to meet Phoenix civil rights leader Salvador Reza when he stepped out of the Fourth Avenue Jail around 10:30 or so Thursday night.

The 58 year-old veteran activist, who heads up the pro-immigration group Puente, was collared earlier that day by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's boys in beige during an action at the jail's central intake, where protesters formed a "sleeping dragon" linking each others arms with PVC pipe.

Reza was standing with the sleeping dragon crew when he was taken into custody with numerous others. He was booked and charged with two counts: failure to obey a police officer and blocking a public thoroughfare. Paying a $450 bond got him out of stir. He was released on his own recognizance.

As he put on his belt and shoelaces, and later chowed down on a Sonoran hot dog provided by supporters, he related the details of his ten-hour detention, which included a visit from the sheriff himself.

Before he was booked and held in isolation away from the other prisoners, Arpaio stopped by to survey the man who has been one of his most persistent critics and enemies.

"He asked me, `What happened, Salvador?'" Reza recalled.

In reply, Reza gave him his name, date of birth, and serial number from when he was in the military.

"He didn't know what to say," stated Reza. "So he just repeated what I said, like he was my prisoner too. He gave his name, birth date and serial number.

"Then he said, `You're not going to talk to me?' I told him, `All I can tell you is that the whole world knows what you're doing.'"

Joe quipped, "Well, the whole world knows me because you've been promoting me worldwide for the last three years. It's because of you."

Reza remained silent, but Arpaio blathered on.

"He started saying, `Salvador, he's a good man, he's a good guy. I really respect him. He's not personal. He has his job and I've got my job. But it's not personal. I really respect him, I really like him,'" related Reza.

"He was telling all the prisoners that," Reza continued. "They kept asking me, `Why is he being so nice to you?'"

Arpaio walked away, and Reza was taken to be booked. The detention officers gave him a hard time when he refused to answer their questions. They threatened to keep him behind bars for 20 days if he didn't give them the info they wanted.

Reza told them to go ahead. Another d.o. eventually came by and calmed the others down. 

"Someone who was not high-profile, they probably would have come in and kicked the shit out of him," said Reza.

After that, Reza was led away to a cell by himself, unlike the other prisoners. Across from him in another cell was a neo-Nazi, all tatted up with swastikas. Reza said he was never advised of his Miranda rights, and he wasn't given his requisite one phone call. There was a phone in the cell, but it didn't work.

Reza was the first of his group of arrestees to be released. As other activists emerged from the jail in drips and drabs, I asked him what he thought the day of protests and civil disobedience had accomplished.

"People are upset," he replied. "People are willing to put their own bodies on the line, and they're willing to risk the sacrifice of arrest and the wrath of the state in order to change the apartheid conditions that have developed here."

But can the movement sustain the momentum of July 29th? 

Reza's reply was characteristic.

"Only if we keep organizing," he said. "Only if we keep doing the work no one else wants to do. Like going into the communities [and organizing]."

July 29th was a massive success, and Puente deserves a lot of credit for creating the situation on the ground that led to a wave of civil disobedience, the like of which Phoenix has not seen in recent memory. I only wish that July 29th could happen every day, until Arizona rids itself of its racist ways.

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