Beginning Tuesday, Sal Reza will be giving Wells Fargo the Pruitt's treatment over mean ol' Sheriff Joe.
If you haven't heard yet, you will soon. Beginning September 2, and continuing on a daily basis Monday though Friday, 11am to 1pm, protesters will begin to converge on the Well Fargo building at 100 W. Washington Street in downtown Phoenix to protest Sheriff Joe Arpaio's reign of terror and error. The Wells Fargo Tower, as it's often referred to, is Joe's Pentagon, if you will, his swank, gold-trimmed epicenter of all evil.
According to the lease agreement, currently, Maricopa County pays a base rental of $50,000 a month or $600,000 a year to occupy two floors in the building.
Maricopa County's Real Estate Manager Dennis Lindsey recently notified Wells Fargo that the county has accepted a new Fair Market Rent of $675K per year for 31,250 square feet allotted for "general office use by the Maricopa County Sheriff's office and for no other purpose," according to lease documents I obtained this week. Lindsey told Wells Fargo in the February 28 letter that the county would be exercising its option to renew the lease, which is 10 years old, and is officially up September 30 of this year. Presumably, the new Fair Market Value would kick in then.
This Siege of Arpaio is brought to us by local pro-immigrant activist Sal Reza's organization PUENTE, as well as the LA-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network. The object is to target not only Arpaio, but also Wells Fargo, encouraging them to evict Arpaio from their building as a tenant.
"By harboring and profiting from the Sheriff’s presence in the Wells Fargo Tower," states PUENTE's press release, "Wells Fargo is also integrating itself to the constant violations of human rights that are being conducted by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, under the guise of the 287(g) agreements and local immigration enforcement. It is unacceptable that Wells Fargo continue this relationship."
The protests, which will undoubtedly rival a similar action at M.D. Pruitt's furniture store in Phoenix last year, call to mind the divestment campaign against South Africa's pro-apartheid regime in the 1980s. It's also reminiscent of the massive anti-Vietnam War marches on the Pentagon and the White House in the '60s and '70s, if not in numbers, then in making the headquarters of a regime the focal point for a demonstration.
The siege is an intriguing idea, one that gives people a venue to vent their frustration and rage at Sheriff Joe's arrests of corn vendors and gardeners, and his trampling on the civil rights undocumented and documented workers alike. In this most recent raid on a Mesa landscaping business , Joe's thugs zip-tied at least one citizen, as well as legal and illegal aliens alike. Essentially, he arrested everyone first and sorted it out later.
The raid was done early in the morning, using the authority of the federal government in the form of MCSO's 287g agreement with ICE. Parents were hauled away, likely to be deported. Families were eradicated. Some children may never see their parents again. The anger and outrage at these injustices must be demonstrated. To do nothing is unconscionable. But where do folks gather to express their moral indignation? Now people will have a place where they, and others from outside Arizona, can make their voices heard.
The protests are sure to cause the MCSO a great deal of nervousness, and impose a bunker mentality upon Joe and the boys. Already they are second-guessing themselves. The MCSO's PR machine posted a press release on August 26 denouncing the planned protests, but if you now go to MCSO's Web site, you can no longer access this "news brief." I suspect this is because the release itself is alarmist in tone. (You can check out the entire document, here.)
"These people did the same thing when they protested against the Pruitt Furniture Company [sic]," Arpaio said in the missing press release. "They have no respect for private business and could care less if their political agenda disrupts private citizens or businesses."
The statement continues on to read:
"Pruitt's Furniture suffered a near year long disruption by many of these same protestors which badly hurt their business. The city of Phoenix took no action against the protestors forcing the owners of the business to turn to the Sheriff for help. Over 100 illegals were arrested.
"The activists plan on two hour long protests around the Wells Fargo building each day beginning on September 2, 2008 Monday through Friday for an undetermined number of days in order to intimidate the bank management and the Sheriff."
Sorry, Jack. We still live in America, despite Sheriff Joe's best efforts. And that means the right to assemble and protest. The press release makes it sound like the City of Phoenix should have somehow prevented the Pruitt's protest from happening. Thing is, Reza's people did not block customers from going into Pruitt's. Maybe in communist North Korea the police can shut down a legal protest anytime they like, but not here in the U.S. of A., bucko.
There's another reason raising the specter of a Pruitt's-like showdown is unwise on MCSO's part. That protest dragged out for months, and was ultimately successful for the pro-immigrant forces. Pruitt's owner Roger Sensing stopped using off-duty Sheriff's deputies to guard his property while MCSO patrol vehicles terrified that neighborhood. Could the MCSO be concerned that Well Fargo will be unhappy with having their property turn into a barricaded war zone because of MCSO overreaction?
The MCSO does not deal well with crowds, and I suspect that the Phoenix PD will stay out of the situation. Can the MCSO contain itself as it's derided and mercilessly jeered on its own turf? Stay tuned next week, as the Siege of the Sheriff commences.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.