Feathered Bastard

San Francisco Honors Arizona's Anti-SB 1070 "Capitol Nine," 14 Arrested in Civil Disobedience in Los Angeles, Protesters in El Paso Turn Themselves In at County Jail

The nine activists arrested after chaining themselves to the Arizona state Capitol in an act of civil disobedience over SB 1070 -- known to many as "the Capitol Nine" -- will be honored next week with a billboard-size digital mural in San Francisco's Mission District.

The billboard was commissioned by San Fran's Galeria de la Raza from the Mexico City/Tucson-based multimedia performance-art group Verbobala ("Bulletverb").

It prominently features a defiant image of protester Leilani Clark, as she's being arrested. The image actually came from Phoenix videographer Dennis Gilman's YouTube video of the civil disobedience that occurred on Tuesday, April 20.

Curator Raquel de Anda told me that Galeria de la Raza's been around for 40 years, spotlighting Chicano/Latino art in the City by the Bay. She said the gallery felt they needed to make a stand over Arizona's "papers please" legislation.

"We were aghast when the bill passed," De Anda told me. "It's racial profiling. Since we were the first place to represent Latino art in [California], it was our duty to showcase our stance on the bill."

I just wish some Phoenix gallery owners felt the same way. There's a surprising amount of apathy, cowardice and lack of originality in the Phoenix art community. Maybe they could catch a clue from San Fran.

De Anda said the piece will go up next week and stay put for about a month. Some smart gallerist on Phoenix's Roosevelt Row should follow suit, maybe show the same image on a wall down here. What have they got to lose?


Since the Capitol Nine were arrested, there have been other acts of civil disobedience protesting SB 1070 -- in D.C., with Congressman Luis Gutierrez being arrested among others, in Illinois, where 24 were collared after blocking a federal deportation van, and so on..

The latest bit of '60s-style protest occurred yesterday in Los Angeles, where 14 demonstrators chained themselves together on a downtown street, according to the AP, and blocked traffic for about four hours. They were arrested by the LAPD and charged with failure to disperse.

An interesting and largely symbolic protest occurred on May 5, when about 30 El Paso residents handcuffed themselves and surrendered at the county jail, saying they were guilty of not carrying their papers, in violation of SB 1070.

A deputy sheriff there politely told them, one by one, that El Paso County did not enforce federal immigration law, and that they were in Texas, not Arizona.

What I have to wonder is why similar actions are not taking place here at "ground zero" in the wake of the arrest of the Capitol Nine.

Here in Sand Land, too many activists think that having a march every week to protest an already-passed, already-signed law is their only outlet for nonviolent expression.

I disagree. Activists in other cities are putting them to shame. Marches are swell. So are the celebs that have been coming to town: Shakira, Danny Glover, Al Sharpton.

Ditto the "Los Suns" jersey protest by our hometown pro b-ball team. Not that the activists had squat to do with that one. 

The "professional protesters" here in Cactus Country need to start thinking outside the box. They also need to be willing to get arrested in some high-profile, nonviolent acts of civil disobedience.

In other words, put your body where your mouth is and emulate the spirit of the Capitol Nine.

Otherwise, perhaps the Arizona boycott should apply to you as well.

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