Where's the fiesta, hombres? On the sidewalk outside of Pruitt's, every Saturday.
PHX's M.D. Pruitt's Home Furnishings, the site of the ongoing day-laborer squabble, smells like cow caca. For real. Owner Roger Sensing recently had fresh manure laid down on his side of the sidewalk, next to where Salvador Reza and at least a hundred protesters were standing this past Saturday morning, in an apparent attempt at a little olfactory warfare. At one point during his walks through the sidewalk-bound crowd, Sensing, who has a speech impediment that rivals Jimmy's on South Park and who was dressed like a trailer park refugee, once even joked with Reza, asking Reza if he could get Sensing some day laborers to help him plant flowers in the turd trough he had set up.
That ain't all you'll smell when you visit Pruitt's...
Though you might be tempted to have some sympathy for Sensing's plight, any of that evaporates once you see the three-ring circus Sensing has turned his business into. Along with the at least seven Sheriff's deputies I counted on Sensing's property, there to arrest anyone who strayed onto Pruitt's lot -- no matter how briefly, Sensing had signs condemning Mayor Phil Gordon's inaction hung all over his building, huge Pruitt's trucks parked behind the protestors, a number of cranky old nativist volunteers trying to order people around, and, of course, the dung. Maybe Sensing enjoys the smell. Ah, it smells like -- lost sales! Why anyone would want to go shop for furniture at an armed camp that reeks of merde is beyond me.
Couldn't have said it better myself...
The protesters themselves were relatively friendly and well-behaved, carrying signs that read, "Sheriff Joe, wake up and smell the frijoles," and "Arrest Joe Arpaio for violating the constitution." Plainclothes and uniformed Phoenix PD were present on the sidewalk to keep the peace. They were not on Pruitt's payroll for the day, and generally were a benign presence. No mariachis this week, but there was a four-piece tejano band, which serenaded the demonstrators. The only thing the mini-fiesta lacked were some street vendors selling corn on the cob or Mexican hot dogs.
"To dream the impossible dream..."
Of course, Sheriff Joe was present, and just as I got there, he was holding court with members of the mostly Spanish-language media. One Hispanic guy, who was obviously not a reporter, walked up to Joe and berated him in broken English, calling Joe a racist. Joe's comeback? "You're from Mexico and you don't have any papers, did you just say that?" I guess that passes for humor in the decrepit mind of our aged lawman, though it tends to prove the accuser's point.
Salvador Reza, the Hispanic Wilford Brimley.
Surprisingly, Arpaio recognized me, saying, "Hey, Bird, how ya doin'?" But he wouldn't answer any questions from me, despite this initial conviviality. I asked him why he was at Pruitt's and if these deputy dawgs in Pruitt's parking lot were off-duty, but he wouldn't say. As he walked away, I asked him if he were on-duty, to which he growled, "I'm on duty 24 hours a day!" I then inquired if he was on the Pruitt's payroll, but he just kept moseyin' on. I was later informed that only 3 or 4 of the deputies present were off-duty hires by Pruitt's. Does that mean that the other deputies were on over-time?
"Why does the Sheriff have to have all this force here?" wondered Salvador Reza, who sort of resembles a Hispanic Wilford Brimley. "We have the Phoenix police here already. It's a political move to show how anti-immigrant he is."
Reza asked how the Sheriff could lack the manpower to service the Superior Court, as happened recently and was blamed on MCSO budget woes, yet have enough manpower to play pattycake with Pruitt's. Reza also claimed that the protests were back on after a year-long break because Sensing had called the MCSO in to patrol the area and arrest day-laborers. Supposedly, there was some tentative agreement at one time between both sides, a cease-fire, of sorts. But whatever agreement existed before is long gone.
Who's the mean ol' man scowling in the center? Well, I think you know...
That's my report from the front. I wanted to scope the scene where the ACLU's Dan Pochoda was arrested last week, and to get a glimpse of the general chaos. Glad I did. Roger Sensing ain't got a lick of sense. Turning his store into Fort Apache can't be good for business. You'd think he'd want to work things out with Reza, who says Sensing helped sabotage efforts to get a day-laborer center going at a nearby church. But no. The Mexican standoff continues. The protests are on for every Saturday. I'll try to drop by next weekend as well. If Joe's gonna show to all of these, it'll be worth braving the stench of Sensing's shite to lob a few more queries at Arpaio.