Cops and other attendees had to run the gauntlet today at a BBQ/fundraiser for fired, killer-cop Richard Chrisman, held in an underground enclosure at the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, the powerful police union that reps rank and file Phoenix police officers.
About a dozen or so protesters, led by local radio host/activist Carlos Galindo, showed up to give the BBQ-goers hell as they walked into and out of the event.
Activists chanted "Shame on you," and called cops walking past "vampires" and "murderers." Hispanic cops caught the worst of it, and were met with bullhorn blasts of "vendido" ("sell-out" in Spanish) and "Malinche," which is sort of like calling someone a Benedict Arnold en Espanol.
Just in front of the ramp leading down was a makeshift shrine for Daniel Rodriguez, the unarmed south Phoenix resident who was gunned down by Chrisman on October 5.
Chrisman was recently axed by the Phoenix Police Department, and he faces charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault and animal cruelty in the killing of Rodriguez and his dog.
On the sidewalk, prison abolitionist Peggy Plews wrote brightly-colored chalk messages such as "PLEA endorses police violence."
There were occasional words exchanged between the demonstrators and those going to the BBQ, but the PPD's low-key, plainclothes Community Response Squad was on hand to keep the peace. There were no incidents.
That may change tonight when the BBQ resumes from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and again from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. A lot more protesters are expected in the evening as folks get off work. Hopefully the demonstration remains peaceful.
Escorted by a plainclothes cop, I descended into the underground parking structure and was led to PLEA treasurer Joe Clure. He told me he wasn't going to talk with me, and then asked me to leave.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I reckon. I have to say the event seemed better attended than I expected. However, I didn't spot Chrisman or PLEA President Mark Spencer for that matter.
I'll check out the scene later on and report back here. Till then...
UPDATE: I swung by the PLEA offices later that evening to eyeball the ongoing protest. According to members of the Phoenix Police Department's Community Response Squad, there had been around 40 protesters outside the PLEA offices during the 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. shift. By the time I arrived around 8:30 p.m., the protest had shrunk to less than 20 people or so.
There had been a little drama in my absence. Some of the protesters went down an alley next to the PLEA offices, and PLEA representatives had demanded they be cited for trespassing. But it was determined that the passage was a right of way, and the matter was dropped.
PLEA representatives, annoyed by the rambunctious demonstration, which included folks harranguing the gathering on bullhorns, set up speakers and blasted loud music at the activists. The bullhorn-speaker battle had quieted by the time of my arrival.
I witnessed one tense moment when Galindo and PLEA board chairman Frank Marino faced off, but that eventually dissipated.
Officers showing up to participate in the BBQ slowed to a trickle by around 10 p.m. And the protesters finally decided to pack it in.
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Sergeant Mark Schweikert of the Community Response Squad told me there had been no arrests or citations at the protest during the day.
I have to commend the CRS, which includes such veteran officers as Sergeant Al Ramirez, for keeping the peace and negotiating between the two opposing sides. No doubt the fact that so many of their fellow cops were involved made this particular demonstration a difficult one for them to handle.
Kudos also to the protesters for remaining peaceful, while getting their point across to the cops attending. PLEA's BBQ deserved the condemnation.
At the end of the evening, PLEA chairman Marino came out to hose off the chalk messages left by Peggy Plews and others. (Most had been wiped off by those who'd made them, so Marino's job was a light one.) As I watched him, I couldn't help but think that the mark of Cain both PLEA and Richard Chrisman have helped affix to the Phoenix Police Department will not be so easily washed away.