Someone must've spiked Mayor Phil Gordon's Froot Loops with testosterone. How else to explain the previously 'nad-less Hizzoner, lambasting Sheriff Joe Arpaio at the big César Chávez luncheon downtown?
Like a Jack Russell terrier sinking its teeth into a grizzled ol' bulldog, Phil laid into Sheriff Joe over Arpaio's latest bout of domestic terrorism near Bell and Cave Creek roads. That's where the MCSO set up its racial-profiling command post, and nearly incited a riot in the process when the Hispanic community showed up in force to badger the hell outta immigrant-hunting deputies and their hillbilly-esque supporters.
Phil's verbal dive-bomb came after night one of Arpaio's raids, with night two and the threat of racial violence to come.
"[The sheriff] announced that his 200 volunteer posse members would be migrating north to crack down on illegal aliens," Phil intoned, later adding, "He says he's doing this because 10 business owners — including a pawn shop and a biker store — asked him to. And who helped circulate those 10 signatures to deliver to the sheriff? A self-described neo-Nazi."
Actually, only eight businesses out of the hundreds along Bell Road signed the petition. And as this wacky warbler revealed in last week's column ("Resident Evil," March 27), it was alleged public urinator Buffalo Rick Galeener, of the ultra-racist hate group United for a Sovereign America, who passed around the letter asking Joe to invade the neighborhood.
U.S.A. has accepted neo-Nazis into its ranks. Galeener's not one of them, though he is a foul-mouthed bigot who refers to nonwhites as "monkeys." Phil was correct in spirit, though. He faulted Nickel Bag Joe for setting the stage for "shouting matches, confrontations or worse," and he contrasted Joe's collars for cracked windshields and busted tail lights to a recent anti-gang operation by the Phoenix Police Department that nabbed 42 gang-bangers on 562 felony counts.
"If [the sheriff] really wants to fight crime," advised Phil, "he should start rounding up dangerous criminals who have outstanding felony warrants . . . There are thousands of outstanding warrants in this county. How long are those going to stay piled up on his desk?"
Phil called Joe out like a man, and no doubt the sheriff's Selective Enforcement Unit is already investigating the mayor, as it does with all Joe's enemies. That's one reason every pol — from Governor Janet Napolitano to Attorney General Terry Goddard — is petrified of going after the Valley's version of J. Edgar Hoover, minus the frilly undergarments (we think).
True, Gordon caved to right-wing pressure on the revamping of Operations Order 1.4.3, which did not need to be revamped. And Gordon, a nominal Dem, effed up by endorsing wing-nutter Andrew Thomas for county attorney and Sheriff Joe for re-election in 2004.
Still, Sand Land's damn dry when it comes to political courage. We need every ounce we can wring from our leaders. Gordon did the right thing in speaking out as he saw Arpaio traipsing toward a race war. The Bird can only hope Phil's intestinal fortitude will be long-lasting, and contagious to his peers. Are you listening, county Supes?!
Did you know that the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, is looking into Arpaio's 287g agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement? That 287g agreement is the one allowing specially trained MCSO deputies to enforce federal immigration law under certain circumstances. People are wondering whether Arpaio is in violation of the agreement, especially those immigrant rights supporters with whom the GAO's spoken.
Several local Latino activists were contacted by the GAO, including legal beagle Danny Ortega and Somos America leader Hector Yturralde. The GAO solicited their views of Joe's use of 287g-trained officers for politically motivated sweeps like last week's Bell Road bungle. Joe's critics have given the government investigators an earful about Joe's use of non-ICE-trained posse members in these dragnets, and his penchant for going after petty crimes as a means to nab the undocumented.
Joe himself admitted such an inquiry was under way when this persnickety parakeet spoke to him during a press conference inaugurating the disastrous Bell Road operation.
"The only thing I'm going to tell you is that we've had people who've come here, and they love the program," Arpaio assured this avian.
Joe's flunky Paul "Chicken Little" Chagolla then stepped between the sheriff and this beak-bearer, hastily ordering, "Get ahold of the GOA [sic]. That's enough!"
Gee, Paul, why so testy? At least get your acronyms right if you want folks to think you actually know what you're doing.
The nutty nightingale rang the GAO and spoke to flack Chuck Young, who denied the federal agency's calls were part of a direct inquiry into our corrupt top cop.
"GAO is responding to a congressional request [from the House Homeland Security Committee] to look at the 287g program, and we are doing so in 29 different state and local jurisdictions across the nation," Young informed this yard bird. "We have been and will continue to speak with a wide range of stakeholders as part of our research efforts for this report."
That sounds awfully broad. But one of those contacted by the GAO, who did not wish to be named, insisted that the agency was, indeed, interested in Arpaio's alleged abrogation of the 287g agreement.
Whatever the case, the GAO or some government entity should be probing Arpaio's 287g shenanigans. ICE's online description of 287g partnerships with local law enforcement states that 287g trainees "pursue investigations relating to violent crimes, human smuggling, gang/organized crime activity, sexual-related offenses, narcotics smuggling and money laundering; and support in more remote geographical locations."
Doesn't say anything about racial profiling, or pulling over Pedro for a driving sans headlights. Granting the MCSO, a deeply flawed law enforcement entity, 287g powers was a massive mistake. The 287g agreement with the sheriff should be rescinded. Unless ICE wants to be held responsible when one of the MCSO's dunderheaded dragnets morphs into a full-fledged conflagration.
BATTLE OF BELL
Sheriff Joe blinked during the Battle of Bell Road. Despite having gas canisters at the ready, SWAT team in position, and barricades out the ying-yang, if the operation had gone on for much longer, Arpaio might've done his General George Custer impersonation.
About 700 pissed-off Hispanics jammed the parking lot where the MCSO had established its mobile command center on the operation's first night. According to police scanners, deputies couldn't even get their cars off the lot at one point.
Emotions ran high, with weeping women yelling into bullhorns and wags deriding lined-up deputies with cries of, "You are my heroes. You get paid $30 an hour for doing nothing!" Musicians lightened the mood, with Australian guitarist James Quercia composing a ditty that became the protesters' unofficial anthem:
"People everywhere/Running down the street The crowd is thinning out/Running from the heat Sheriff's on the prowl/People on the move I said, 'Uh-oh, Joe is here.'"
Things turned uglier when the pistol-packin', snaggletoothed bigots of Rusty Childress' United for a Sovereign America showed up. One woman wore a protective mask for fear she would catch a disease from Hispanics. Others bore signs with such racist lies as "71,000 Americans killed by illegal aliens since 9/11." Though most of the protesters were Mexican-Americans or present in the country legally, counter-demonstrators urged them to "Go back to Mexico!"
Against such provocations, local leaders like Salvador Reza and Alfredo Gutierrez helped maintain the peace, forming a line of men to keep demonstrators away from the U.S.A. knuckledraggers. Someone threw a Coke can at the nativists at one point, and they whined that The Bird would never report it, being that he's partial to the anti-Joe forces. The Taloned One told them not to be babies, to take it like the tough guys they pretended to be.
The evening ended with the main MCSO wagon pulling out at 11 p.m. The next night, it was all over by 8:30 p.m., though the day had been far uglier, with more nativists, higher barricades, and a slightly smaller crowd of pro-immigrant demonstrators.
Taunts were exchanged, water bottles tossed. One guy on the pro-immigrant side got popped after lobbing a container of H2O at the U.S.A.-ers. The Bird would've advised the fella to hurl an empty one so the nativists would've had something to urinate in, à la Buffalo Rick.
Some cat looking like a young Charles Manson in a purple T-shirt with a Latin quote on it walked onto the lot with a shotgun strapped to his back, mumbling something about being a "peacemaker" and doing the Lord's work. Neither side claimed him. And the MCSO quickly bagged him.
With many nativists openly armed, and some anti-Joe protesters perhaps packin' concealed weaponry, the appearance of Purple T-shirt Man was an eerie warning that it'd only take one nutjob to kick-start a bloodbath.
One of The Bird's acquaintances on the nativist side of the argument, Clyde O'Briant, who resembles Chuck Norris, minus a few decades, agreed that things had approached the boiling point on the second night.
"It was volatile," admitted O'Briant, who said he's not a member of any org and had been on-site for hours. "It was getting to the point where it was going to explode. That guy with the shotgun almost did it."
When the MCSO broke camp, the situation diffused, and people went their separate ways. Will it take blood on the streets next time to prove that Joe's brown roundups are a menace to public safety?
If you wanna talk about a fake crisis, this smart-ass avian urges you look no further than Phoenix's First Friday, where gallery owners and the city are conspiring to corral vendors and artists in hopes of taming the once-a-month free-for-all up, down, and around Roosevelt Street downtown.
Yep, First Friday's gotten too wild and woolly for the soccer-mom-and-pop types who run some local galleries, including culcha vulcha Greg Esser of the Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation. Esser and the RRCDC want all them funky artists and bead-vendors to confine themselves to a block party to coincide with First Fridays, in front of the Holgas apartment complex on Garfield between Third and Fourth streets.
(To be fair, Esser's said he hopes the block party concept spreads throughout the Evans-Churchill neighborhood.)
The artists would have to pay to play: $35 per month, in addition to $70 annually to the city and some undetermined fees to the state. And they'll have to kiss Esser's ring. But that'd be cheaper than the fine of anywhere between $100 to $2,500 the vendors and artistes will be slapped with if they set up anywhere they want, as they've been doing for four friggin' years.
Jennifer Delgado, president of the Roosevelt Row CDC, declared in a recent Arizona Republic "My Turn" column that "the free ride is over." She, Esser, and others kvetch that vendors, some of whom sell snow cones or wallets — as opposed to artier products — are a safety hazard and pay no taxes.
These painters, jewelry-hawkers, and tchotchke-peddlers are getting special treatment, claims Delgado, albeit for one day out of the month. On the other hand, so are the galleristas, Jenny. The city's offering art-fart burgomeisters as much as $100,000 in reimbursements for renovations to their galleries. When's the last time some barefoot boho type peddling wares on Roosevelt scored $100K from the city?
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Also, the City Council will probably have approved an Arts, Culture and Small Business Overlay District by the time this issue of New Times hits the curb. That means gallery owners will be able to set up their card tables outside their storefronts to sell shwag, as long as money is exchanged inside the biz.
The reason The Bird and others gravitate to Roosevelt on First Fridays is for the very libertine, Fellini-esque atmosphere that the Esser-Delgado axis wants to kill, not to ogle the pricey baubles at Esser and partner Cindy Dach's boutique, MADE.
Stop being greedy, and let the artists and vendors set up wherever the hell they see fit. So we have an exception 12 days out of the year to some of the city's rules. Phoenix still carves out its pound of flesh every other day of the calendar, and gallerists still get their gravy in other ways.
There's a small-town mindset in this megalopolis that freaks out whenever it sees a crowd gather. Take a deep breath, gallery goons, count to 10, and leave the artists and vendors be. They ain't hurtin' your commerce, and without them, First Friday will shrink. Then the the next bitchin' you'll be doing is that no one gives a furry Fig Newton about First Fridays!