The picture was taken May 2, the day of the anti-Arpaio Walk for Respect, which saw 2,000 demonstrators march about seven miles from downtown Phoenix's Wells Fargo Bank building, where Arpaio has two floors of pricey executive offices, to 31st Avenue and Durango Street, just across the street from Joe's Tent City. The march took off about 9:45 a.m. and got to Tent City hours later. But before those protesting Arpaio's anti-immigrant policies arrived at their destination, Joe had already swung by to say hello to his supporters.
These included about 100 members from different groups, who'd positioned themselves on the sidewalk on the south side of Durango. Most were members of ex-Kia dealer Rusty Childress' anti-immigrant hate group United for a Sovereign America, a bunch that's accepted neo-Nazis into its ranks. One of U.S.A.'s former affiliates, J.T. Ready, was also present with about three other hardcore swastika-lovers, including one 20-year-old skinhead dressed all in black, the aforementioned "Lombardi."
When the marchers finally began to make their way down Durango, the first counter-protesters they saw were Ready, Lombardi, and the other neo-Nazis flipping the Nazi salute, screaming "Sieg Heil!" and stomping on the Mexican tricolor. Ready waved a giant Confederate flag, and yelled, "Look at the Jew!" over and over to someone in the crowd. Lombardi hollered words such as "scum," "rapists," and "murderers" to the mostly Hispanic throng.
The crowd became enraged by these taunts and similar actions on the part of the U.S.A. nativists, who wore surgical masks to "protect" themselves from swine flu and waved racist placards saying that Mexican immigrants bring disease.
Indeed, if it had not been for scores of Phoenix cops working the event — and keeping the two sides away from each others — the taunting and occasional tossing of water bottles and fruit might have escalated into violence. Arpaio's MCSO did nothing, other than secure its perimeter and protect the area set aside for Joe's press conference. On that day, the MCSO basically ceded command to the Phoenix PD.
Joe's arrival on the scene was captured by videographer and nativist Lynne Stevens, one of the armed U.S.A. members who has been protesting civil rights activist and march organizer Salvador Reza's Macehualli Day Labor Center in north Phoenix for more than a year now. In the footage Stevens posted to her YouTube account — now up on my Feathered Bastard blog — you see Joe's black car stop in front of a handful of neo-Nazis. Joe talks to them from the back seat.
In the video, Lombardi gushes, "If you pat our back, we've got your back." Then a neo-Nazi named Harry (who goes by "Vandal" online) asks whether he can take photos. Soon, Lombardi squats in front of the car's rear side door and gets his pic with Joe. Arpaio then informs the neo-Nazis that the demonstrators "won't be here for an hour," to which Lombardi replies, "Gotcha."
I'm already hearing the excuses. Joe didn't know the neo-Nazi was a neo-Nazi, even though the skinhead look and the black combat outfit would give most politicos pause. Then there was Lombardi's sign calling Mexicans "scum," and the fact Lombardi was standing on a Mexican flag. Maybe Joe didn't see that. Like they say, the eyesight's the first thing to go.
As for giving the neo-Nazis a heads-up on how far away the marchers were, well, Joe's chummy like that to everyone, whether you're wiping your boots on the Mexican flag, flying a Confederate pennant, or waving racist signs. If you support Joe, he'll show ya some love.
No matter what Arpaio or his apologists say, Joe has become a magnet for nativist and neo-Nazi kooks, and he apparently has zero qualms about it. For instance, back in 2008, after he spoke before a crowd of United for a Sovereign America members, I challenged Joe on why he was palling around with a nativist org that allows goose-steppers to enter its camp. He responded that he talks to "everybody," no matter what their affiliation. I got the same response from his top flack, Lisa Allen. Seems there's no shame in their game, even when it comes to Hitler-worshippers.
But according to Arizona Anti-Defamation League director Bill Straus, Arpaio should have some shame regarding the wanna-be-shutzstaffel in the sheriff's fan base.