Save for the implied threat of the nativists, today's children's march from Sheriff Joe's Fourth Avenue Jail in Downtown Phoenix to the Wells Fargo Building, where the MCSO keeps two floors of pricey executive offices, was an inspiring spectacle. About 150 persons, more than half of whom were kids, participated in the protest against Sheriff Joe's immigration sweeps and raids, which often separate families and tear children away from their mothers.
Many of the children wore or carried hand-made butterfly wings, offering a parallel to Monarch butterflies, which migrate regularly from Mexico to the United States. They carried painted signs that read, "Stop Taking Our Parents," "No More Joe," and "Find a New Way, Joe, to Get on the News." And they chanted slogans such as, "No more raids," "Obama, listen, we want our parents back," and, "We don't like your attitude, Arpaio mean and rude."
The temperature hovered around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, slightly cooler than the anticipated high of 106. The kids seemed to take it in stride, beginning the seven-block march near Fourth and Madison Avenues, and continuing on to and around the Wells Fargo tower, ending at its entrance near Central Avenue and Washington Street.
As they circled that corner, the children walked past about a half-dozen nativists, most of them members of United for a Sovereign America, the racist hate group known for regularly harassing Sal Reza's Macehualli Day Labor Center, near Bell Road and 25th Street in North Phoenix.
Nativist videographer Lynne Stevens (aka, "Jackie 40D") and the white-haired nativist known as Kevin were each wearing guns on their hips. When I asked them repeatedly why they were wearing firearms to a demonstration involving children, Kevin refused to answer. Stevens said something about how she wouldn't save me with her gun if I was being attacked. (Huh?) A middle-aged woman I was unfamiliar with, and who declined to give me her name, defended the wearing of pistols by the nativists. Looking suspiciously at the assembled children and adults, she muttered, "There could be killers in that crowd."
Of course, convicted public urinator and die-hard xenophobe Buffalo Rick Galeener was there. I questioned him about the racist image of President Obama posted to the United for a Sovereign America Web site yesterday, which appears to be his handiwork. I asked him if he indeed made the bigoted lampoon calling Obama "President Sambo," but he refused to answer.
The children and the adults with them held a rally outside the Washington Street entrance to the Wells Fargo building. One little girl, Maria, 8, spoke through the bullhorn, telling the crowd, "I want everyone to hear this. [Our parents] are not robbing. They're just feeding us."
(The girl happens to be the child of a woman who was injured during an MCSO raid this year at the Phoenix landscaping firm HMI. The mom was jailed for weeks, and her four children were without her during that time.)
A young boy also took the bullhorn, and admonished Joe.
"You only care about the immigrants," he said. "You don't care about the murderers or the rapists."
Phoenix police officers kept the peace and escorted the march to Wells Fargo. However, I also spotted some plainclothes MCSO shaking hands with the nativists nearby. U.S.A member and MCSO-contact Barb Heller was also present, as well as the nativist known as Angry Jim, carrying a sign warning about the perils of swine flu.
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Though the event was scheduled to last from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., it was all over by noon, with the kids and everyone else adjourning for a pizza party at the Tonatierra Community Development Institute on 7th Street.
"They were very good," Reza said of his pint-sized army. "I think Arpaio got the message. I hope the media covers it the right way. We didn't bring make-believe. We brought reality."
Though talk-radio twits, like on-air drool kings Mac and Gaydos on KTAR 92.3 FM, have had a field day lambasting the walk, claiming the children didn't know what they were marching for, such on-air goofballs should try telling that to some Hispanic kid whose 'rents have been ripped from them by Arpaio's mean-spirited, anti-immigrant raids. What's the greater crime, these kids' parents being the country sans papers, or depriving a child of his or her mom and dad? I think you know the answer.