PUENTE's Sal Reza and MEChA's Sandra Castro, outside Wells Fargo on Wednesday.
You don't expect two hour protests in the mid-day heat of a Phoenix September to be energizing and fun, but that's what I found the anti-Arpaio protest outside the Wells Fargo building downtown to be when I walked over there after the dramatic Board of Supervisor's meeting yesterday. As I blogged in a previous post, Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability took over the Supes' meeting demanding that they be placed on the agenda, then walked out singing My Country Tis of Thee, and waving little American flags.
The Republic missed the point of the demo, confusing it with a separate action by the Supes, a vote canceling the town of Guadalupe's contract with the Sheriff's Office. The MCSA walkout had nothing to do with Guadalupe. Indeed, after the walkout, the Supes continued their meeting, and the current Mayor of Guadalupe spoke, asking that the Supes not kill the contract. How did Rep reporter Yvonne Wingett so badly jumble yesterday's events? Columnist Laurie Roberts chimed in on her blog today, completely screwing up what actually happened, apparently making assumptions based on Wingett's piece. No wonder the Rep's going under faster than the Iraqi navy.
But I digress. Over at Wells Fargo, Sal Reza's organization PUENTE was joined by 40 activists from different cities brought in by the L.A.-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network. (For folks like Roberts who tend to get confused by more than one protest happening on the same day, please note that MCSA is not involved in the Wells Fargo action.) I spoke with NDLON's Executive Director Pablo Alvarado, who told me that he and his fellow activists were looking to contain the Joe Arpaio virus.
"For us that come from other cities," said Alvarado, "it’s important that the tactics that Sheriff Arpaio is utilizing to terrorize, to persecute migrants in this state and Maricopa County don’t go beyond, that they stay here in Arizona and that they end here in Arizona. We don’t want to see this exported or imported to other places. And we want to make sure the entire country knows what Sheriff Joe is doing in terms of enforcing the law in an inappropriate way."
The stated goal of the protest is to evict Arpaio from the two floors in the Wells Fargo building that the MCSO's upper echelon uses as its executive offices. The protesters appear every weekday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., waving placards, marching round the building, banging drums and shouting through bullhorns. Similar actions have occurred at Wells Fargo buildings in Chicago and San Francisco, and more are being planned for other cities.
"These 40 organizers come from 40 different cities," explained Alvarado of his mostly youthful crew. "They’re going back, and they’ll be holding the same type of action that we’re doing here in their places of origin. We’re going to make sure we expose what’s happening here."
On this day, I counted more than 60 bodies, but without NDLON's people, Reza's averaging about 20 people per day. After all, getting people out to protest in the middle of the day ain't easy. This Wednesday, the protest was lively, full of the enthusiasm college-age students bring to such events. There was a range of young and old involved, but the college students and recent grads made the difference, jamming on guitars and drums, singing and clapping, dancing frenetically after having walked around the surrounding two blocks twice, yelling chants such as, "Hey, hey, whaddyaknow...Sheriff Joe has got to go!"
"It’s a way of bringing happiness to confront the hatred," said Carlos Garcia, a Phoenix-based organizer. "That’s the whole message. We can’t fight hatred with more hatred, so we have everybody dancing and singing."
It did my soul good to visit the protest. There is so much cynicism in the world, on the local political scene, and beyond. Here are people faced with an almost impossible task, and yet, they throw themselves into the struggle with passion and joy.
I've posted a slide show of photos I took during the protest. But also check out the slide show of my colleague Eduardo Barraza of Barriozona Magazine, who is a much better photographer than I could ever hope to be.