Feathered Bastard

SB 1070 Rage: Salvador Reza, Alfredo Gutierrez, Scores of Others Arrested in Phoenix (w/Update)

Phoenix exploded today in a fit of anti-SB 1070 rage that only a summer rain seems to have dampened for the moment.

Scores of activists including Phoenix civil rights leader Salvador Reza of the organization Puente, and former state Senate majority leader Alfredo Gutierrez were arrested by federal officers, Phoenix cops, and Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies.

Sunita Patel, an attorney present as a legal observer, was taken into custody by the MCSO, as well. And there were several clergy arrested, including the Reverend Susan Frederick-Gray of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix.

Also, Dave Seibert, a photographer for the Arizona Republic, was nabbed by the MCSO during one part of the action at the Fourth Avenue Jail.

(BTW, for a slideshow of the day's photos, click, here.)

Ironically, things were mellow early in the morning, after demonstrators marched from Trinity Cathedral at 100 West Roosevelt Street down to the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Courthouse, at Fourth Avenue and Washington Street.

Afterward, U.S. Marshal David Gonzales told me protest leaders had been warning him that as many as 25 would offer themselves up to be arrested after stepping onto the courthouse grounds. But ultimately, only three were willing to get collared: Gutierrez, Dan O'Neil of the Arizona chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America, and one woman, whose name I didn't get.

The arrests at the courthouse had been negotiated in advance, and after being cuffed and taken away by marshals, they were eventually cited and released.

Before he was pinched, I asked Gutierrez why people still were willing to do civil disobedience when District Court Judge Susan R. Bolton had gutted the most odious parts of SB 1070 on Wednesday, while still allowing the rest of the law to go into effect today.

"We're not protesting the law," Gutierrez told me. "We're protesting the climate of hate in Arizona. That's going to proceed. The people who proposed this law are still governing us. And they are still at this very moment meeting in some dark cellar, concocting new schemes...to oppress our community."

Following these arrests, the crowd moved east on Washington to Cesar Chavez Plaza, near First Avenue and across from the Wells Fargo Building, where Sheriff Joe Arpaio maintains two floors of pricey, executive offices.

After about an hour, it seemed as if things were over, and I was beginning to believe that Judge Bolton's decision had robbed the local immigrant-rights movement of steam.

Suddenly, a crowd several hundred strong surged into the street, taking over the block of Washington before the Wells Fargo Building. Phoenix police were immediately overwhelmed 

People cried out, "Put Arpaio in jail!" and "Arrest Arpaio not the people!" They carried signs that read, "Stop targeting immigrants now," and "Defeat SB 1070 in the streets," as well as the slogan of the movement, "We will not comply."

Phoenix cops in riot gear streamed in from the west and the east, eventually ordering the crowd to leave the street or be arrested.

Protesters locked hands in lines of five and six, waiting for the police to zip-tie them and put them in vans nearby. I watched at least 15 people get arrested. Phoenix Police Department spokesman Tommy Thompson said he believed as many as 25 were arrested, if not more. He was unsure of the final tally even late this afternoon. Thompson said those taken in would be charged with blocking a public thoroughfare. (Please see update below.)

As the scene was dying down, folks informed me of the action going down at Arpaio's Fourth Avenue Jail, where six people had formed what is referred to in activist circles as a "sleeping dragon," their arms locked together with PVC pipe, on which was written "No 1070" and "No 287g."

A crowd of a couple of hundred activists and journalists eventually jammed into the driveway for the jail's central booking bay, in front of two immense steel doors advertising for sheriff's deputies.

The Reverend Fredrick-Gray was among the six linked by PVC pipe. She said Judge Bolton's decision was not satisfactory.

"When you have a bad piece of legislation and you take away half of it, that is not good enough," she insisted.

"I'm here because we have to value people more than we value profit and greed," she continued. "SB 1070 arises out of fear. I am here on the side of love. Love is more powerful than fear."

Linked with her were two of the activists arrested in April after chaining themselves to the doors of the state Capitol in an anti-SB 1070 action: Ernesto Lopez and Rubin Lucio.

Ana Rodriguez, another of the PVC crew, had come all the way from Florida to be a part of the demonstration.

"Arizona is at a point where the entire country if not the entire world is watching for our attitude toward immigration," she said. "I believe people have a right to migrate. They've been doing it for hundreds of years."

Nearby, Sal Reza, Phoenix's most determined pro-immigration leader, was preparing to be arrested, waiting just behind those linked by PVC.

"I wanted to get arrested here," he said of the Fourth Avenue Jail. "This is the manifestation of all the repressive laws that the Obama administration has been promoting. Obama is hiding behind the lawsuit [against SB 1070] while 287(g) and Secure Communities are empowering people like Sheriff Joe."

(Note: Sheriff Arpaio's 287(g) field agreement was yanked last year by the feds, but he got to keep 287(g) in his jails.)

Not long after I spoke with Reza, MCSO deputies appeared and literally read the crowd the riot act, or some Arizona version of it, declaring the protesters an unlawful assembly, and giving them five minutes to move onto the sidewalk.

The crowd, however, did not give way.

Eventually, the metal doors of central booking opened wide to reveal a small army of sheriff's deputies, many of them outfitted in tactical gear.

Instead of attempting to cut the PVC pipe, deputies simply dragged all six people into the bay, arresting several others along the way, including Reza. Six more who'd sat down in solidarity were arrested, as well as several others from the crowd

Water bottles were hurled at the deputies. The crowd taunted them with cries of "Nazis!" and "Fuck Arpaio!" Latino deputies were called "vendido," which translates roughly to "sellout."

The doors closed, only to open again, with a riot squad carrying plastic shields. It pushed the crowd back, opened up a wedge, and forced people to the sides. The squad then withdrew leaving the crowd outside the steel entryway.

There protesters remained on Madison Street between Fourth and Third Avenues. Another team of teched-out MCSO deputies emerged and dispersed the crowd to the sidewalks. Others were arrested. One man handcuffed himself to a jail door, but was cut loose by deputies and inexplicably set free.

The crowd then walked back to Cesar Chavez Plaza, and I parted with them along the way. More actions and protests are planned into the weekend. I can only hope that this movement can maintain its momentum. If it does, Phoenix and Arizona may never be the same.

Update 7/30/10: Thompson sent out an e-mail this morning confirming 45 arrests by the Phoenix Police Department. Of course, this doesn't include those arrested by the MCSO, or the three arrested at the federal courthouse.

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