Feathered Bastard

New York Times Criticizes Salvador Reza's False Arrest

Though the false collar of Phoenix's best known civil rights leader by a goon squad of sheriff's deputies has rated only begrudging coverage in the Arizona Republic, the New York Times evidently thinks the incident significant enough to condemn.

In a commentary on District Court Judge Susan R. Bolton's 1070 ruling, the Gray Lady's Lawrence Downes had the following to say about Salvador Reza's abduction by a group of Maricopa County sheriff's deputies on July 30:

"Last Friday, Sheriff Arpaio's deputies arrested Salvador Reza, a leader of immigrant-rights protests, for reasons that a prosecutor later could not explain. Video shows Mr. Reza standing quietly in a parking lot, a good distance from a protest across the street, when a cordon of armed officers surrounds, handcuffs and hauls him off. It was a scene from another decade or country.

"Thomas Saenz, the president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, links Arizona's struggle to the civil rights era. He calls the state's politicians the new nullifiers, descendants of the southern segregationists who fought for Jim Crow with the debased theory that states had the power to invalidate federal law. It took federal action and protesters stirring the nation's conscience to make the point: You cannot treat people this way."

As my colleague James King reported yesterday, County Attorney Rick Romley has decided to drop the charge against Reza, noting that there was no reason for the arrest in the first place.

"We've reviewed all police reports, we reviewed video," Romley said during a press conference. "We agree, as well, with the judge that there was no probable cause."

This example of classic MCSO political retaliation is at least as egregious as the 2007 arrests of my bosses, Village Voice Media Executive Editor Michael Lacey and VVM CEO Jim Larkin. Lacey and Larkin were taken into custody late at night by plainclothes MCSO officers driving unmarked cars.

Reza was nabbed right off the street in broad daylight by a pack of MCSO SWAT team members. I'm not sure which of the incidents is worse. Both are reminiscent of something out of a South American dictatorship.

But this is not a South American dictatorship. It's Maricopa County, U.S.A., where, sadly, the MCSO feels that it has carte blanche to violate people's civil rights with impunity. 

Such has been the case since Arpaio became sheriff 17 years ago. Maybe that's why some in the local media responded to Reza's arrest with indifference. Just another day in Mari-Kafka County, they must reckon.

Our paper of record coughed up a few anonymous graphs today on Reza's false arrest and imprisonment. The Republic buried it on B2, failing to note Romley's decision not to prosecute. Prior to that, it had mentioned the arrest only in passing. Unless there was something in one of the paper's regional versions I didn't see.

If this outrageousness had taken place in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, or just about anywhere else in this country for that matter, you can bet the local Fourth Estate would be raising bloody hell.

Instead, here in Sand Land, it garners a shrug. Now, who is that a commentary on?

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