"If [Arpaio] watches that video from Saturday," Straus told me, speaking of a video of the sieg heil-ing National Socialists circulating on YouTube (which can also be found on the Feathered Bastard blog), "and doesn't feel a slight burden of responsibility to the non-white-supremacist, non-neo-Nazi, non-racist community to say, 'Hey, I'm not looking for support from those groups,' then I'm more than a little disappointed with him."
I'd be disappointed, too, if it weren't so true to form for Sheriff Joe. But then, I'm funny that way. I don't like it when our elected officials play snugglebunny with racist extremists.
Channel 12 confronted Arpaio with video of the neo-Nazis doing their stiff-arm salute, though at that point, the pic of Joe and Lombardi had yet to surface. Arpaio told the TV journos that he doesn't assosciate with hate groups. (Um, excepting for U.S.A.)
His office released a statement to 12, saying, "It is not the sheriff's position to discourage groups on either side from exercising their rights. Sheriff Arpaio does not have any control over who shows up to these public protests."
Lame response, Joe. Especially when you were caught red-handed cavorting with racists of all stripes at the event.HOUSE OF PAIN
While the haters in the nativist and neo-Nazi camp were possessed by fits of rage and viciousness, the successful march of thousands, led by Rage Against the Machine/One Day as a Lion frontman Zack de la Rocha ended peacefully, in a sort of block party, right in front of Joe's massive incarceration complex.
At one point, Arpaio attempted to draw attention away from the stage set up at 31st Avenue and Durango with an open-air press conference. But protesters shouting César Chávez's old rallying cry of, "Si, se puede," sent Joe and a compliant press corps scurrying behind a ginormous MCSO truck. In general, Joe looked old and confused and lacked the energy of his previous struts before the cameras.
Indeed, the energy was on the other side of the street, with people of all ages, all races, all ethnicities banding together to protest Arpaio's anti-immigrant policies and the federal 287(g) program that empowers him. Despite the tension at the end between the protesters and counter-protesters, the Walk for Respect had been peaceful throughout its grueling march in the warm May sun.
A group of indigenous dancers, carrying incense, led the way. Protesters were in good humor as they made their way west on Van Buren Street, even as a black MCSO helicopter buzzed them at one point. They carried signs saying, "We are human," "Stop separating families," and "Silence is betrayal," this last one featuring a photo of Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted with Sheriff Joe.
Demonstrators chanted "Hey hey, ho ho, Sheriff Joe's got to go," and "Arpaio racista, eres terrorista," which means, "Arpaio racist, you are a terrorist." They were cheered on as they walked through Mexican neighborhoods lined with car shops, little mercados, taquerías, and beauty parlors. At one point, Phoenix artist Michael 23 met up with the marchers in a black "UFO" equipped with a sound system. He allowed marchers to chant into his microphone, and mentioned that he and others inside the UFO were illegal "aliens."
The night before, some of those in the anti-Arpaio army had been at Garibaldi's Real Mexican Grill for a fundraiser for Tonatierra and the Macehualli Day Labor Center, both of which are in dire financial straits and may be forced to close by the end of May if not enough money's raised. At Garibaldi's, donors ate spicy chicken mole while watching a video presentation by activist Dennis Gilman and organizer Carlos Garcia. Afterward, Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, Tonatierra's Tupac Acosta, and Macehualli's Reza spoke. Then, finally, the guest of honor, De la Rocha, rose to address the audience.
The rock star spoke briefly, thanking his guests. Then, following a short preamble, he read in entirety a letter from inside Joe's Estrella Jail, written by mothers, daughters, and wives separated from their families because of Arpaio's anti-immigrant sweeps and raids. The letter is heartrending and alleges cruel mistreatment by Arpaio's guards. It was first published on my blog, with the names of its authors removed to protect them from further abuse. De la Rocha had read it on Feathered Bastard and asked for a copy of the translation so he could read it at the fundraiser and, later, at the rally after the march.
At one point, De la Rocha choked up reading the missive. That's not surprising, considering passages like this:
"We find ourselves here in a tunnel without an exit, being treated like dogs that are not deserving of anything. We need help for our cases. Someone to listen to us and do something for the injustices that are being committed against us. Our children and our parents suffer our sentences the most. And we find ourselves with our hearts broken without knowing what's going to happen tomorrow."