More like Don Quixote than César Chávez, pro-immigrant activist Salvador Reza is laying siege to Sheriff Joe Arpaio's downtown Phoenix fortress. This plumed pecker means the Wells Fargo building at 100 West Washington Street, where Nickel Bag Joe surveys his kingdom from his upscale digs, high above us all.
See, Reza wants Wells Fargo to toss Maricopa County's power-crazed top cop and his minions from the space reserved for the MCSO in the building — the 18th and 19th floors. Since the beginning of this month, Reza and his merry band of Joe foes have paraded before the edifice, decrying "Arpayaso" (payaso meaning "clown" in Spanish) for his anti-brown sweeps and raids throughout the county.
Weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the protesters descend on the office building carrying banners and signs, saying things like, "Joe Go from Wells Fargo," "No More Celebrity Sheriff," and "Just Another Mussolini." Reza and his troops have even served an eviction notice of sorts, a letter to Wells Fargo President and CEO John Stumpf demanding, politely, that the bank kick Nickel Bag out on his can.
"Wells Fargo Bank benefits from our business as customers," reads the letter from Reza's organization PUENTE, "yet it permits Sheriff Arpaio to utilize its facilities to persecute, harass, and violate human and civil rights of brown people."
As County Attorney Andrew Thomas also has two floors, paid for by the county, in the posh pad and because Candy is an enabler of Joe's Hispanic-hunting patrols, PUENTE wants Wells Fargo to boot the pasty prosecutor, too.
"Specifically, we request you seriously consider terminating your current lease with these two tenants," reads the missive, "and refuse any proposed extension of their lease."
The timing couldn't be worse for our dyspeptic sheriff. This new protest blossoms during Joe's battle for re-election against nemesis Dan Saban. Also, the 10-year lease for the MCSO's two floors is technically up September 30, though according to Maricopa County Real Estate Manager Dennis Lindsey, the Board of Supervisors approved a five-year extension of the lease in February. Ditto for the two floors occupied by Candy's peeps, 'cept that lease is up at the end of November, says Lindsey.
Currently, Maricopa County forks out $50,000 a month, or $600K a year, for the sheriff's two floors. And when rent's adjusted to market value at month's end, as required by the lease, it will rise to $56,250 per month, which comes to $675K a year. That means the next five years of rent for the sheriff's offices will cost taxpayers $3,375,000. And if you add the price tag of Candy's floors, which cost the same in rent according to Lindsey, we're talkin' a cool $6.75 million. That's a lot of green bologna, matey.
Reza ain't suggesting the sheriff put up a tepee next to Tent City. He's just asking, why does law enforcement require a frickin' suite of corporate offices?
But Reza's argument also is an ethical one: By housing the sheriff, Wells Fargo is complicit in Arpaio's dastardly deeds. If Wells Fargo doesn't sever its business connection with the sheriff, Reza's threatening to take his protest to the next level.
"We want a response from Wells Fargo first," Reza told The Bird. "If they choose to keep Sheriff Joe Arpaio there, then the next step is that we're going to ask people not to do business with them."
Before you write off Reza's protest against the ginormous bank, keep in mind that by focusing on the Wells Fargo building, he's giving outraged citizens a place to assemble next time Joe does a sweep of corn vendors or landscapers. Reza's also recruiting activists from outside Arizona to assist with the effort. Groups in Chicago and San Francisco are promising similar protests, and have already written letters to Wells Fargo muckamucks.
Wells Fargo spokeswoman Marjorie Rice responded to this warbler's query for comment with a terse statement explaining that the bank doesn't discuss its relationships with tenants. But there are signs that the sheriff and the bank are concerned.
First, the MCSO issued an angry press release shortly after Reza's press conference announcing the action. (Not long after it was posted, it was jerked down, but not before The Bird's blogging bro, Feathered Bastard, got hold of it.)
"These people did the same thing when they protested against the Pruitt Furniture Company [sic]," Arpaio harrumphed in the statement. "They have no respect for private business and could care less if their political agenda disrupts private citizens or businesses."
The statement asserted that Pruitt's "suffered a near year long disruption by many of these same protestors which badly hurt their business."
It also alleged, "The city of Phoenix took no action against the protestors forcing the owners of the business to turn to the sheriff for help."