By Fidel "Butch" Montoya
They came from everywhere on January 16, 2010 for the big march against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Over 10,000 strong, they gathered in Phoenix to protest and were determined to show the Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Janet Napolitano that it is time to put a stop to the abuses of Sheriff Arpaio against undocumented immigrants.
The Maricopa County Sheriff Department has used racial profiling against Latinos in order to arrest and detain them in the county’s infamous Tent City. There have been accusations that the Sheriff’s Department has stopped and arrested Latinos for just minor infractions of the law in order to check their immigration status. Latinos who are American citizens have been rounded up simply because they looked like an undocumented immigrant.
In February, Sheriff Arpaio also marched two hundred undocumented immigrants from the county jail to a tent city dressed in black and white prison garb, chained and shackled, and forced to march in streets in Phoenix. The Sheriff created this theatrical display all in the name of ridiculing and disrespecting undocumented immigrants.
The Phoenix of mayor, who has been a critic of Sheriff Arpaio, called for a Department of Justice investigation into the antics and abuse of power by the Maricopa County Sheriff Department.
Many Latinos and undocumented immigrants who have been on the wrong street corner at the wrong time have been arrested and detained in the county jail simply so Arapio could make the outlandish claim by rounding up immigration, criminals will be deported.
Most of the people arrested and detained are hard working men and women, very few with hardened criminal records. All that Arapio has managed to do is separate families, creating hardships for remaining family members not picked up, leaving hundreds of undocumented immigrants and Latinos in fear of this abuse of the law.
The Department of Homeland Security recently took away federal authority and power from the Maricopa County Sheriff Department to arrest and detain undocumented immigrants under the 287 ( g ) agreement. The agreement had allowed Sheriff Arapio to train some of his deputies in immigration law, so that they could enforce federal immigration laws.
Sheriff Arapio has been accused of abusing this federal authority to arrest and detain undocumented immigrants from street corners, shopping malls, bars and clubs where undocumented immigrants or Latinos congregate. Too often, people were jailed without any pretense of the breaking the law, but for simply looking the part of an undocumented immigrant and hardened criminal. Racial profiling abusing the rights of innocent people and families.
Finally in a show of solidarity, people came together to demand a stop to immigrant roundups and racial profiling by Sheriff Arapio. The protestors gathered from around the country in Phoenix to demonstrate to Secretary Napolitano they are fed up with the racial profiling and racist law enforcement by Arapio.
Even under a current grand jury investigation for abuse of power and violating the civil rights of Latinos and undocumented immigrants, Sheriff Arapio has continued to create a mockery of law enforcement.
Sarahi Uribe, a representative from the National Day Labor Organizing Network, told a reporter from KPNX-TV, “We want to tell her (Napolitano) to stop the deportation and abuses of civil rights,“ Uribe said. “We’re very inspired by the civil-rights struggle in this country, and we see this as a continued fight.”
Perhaps one of the most significant displays of solidarity came from a group of sixty prominent Black leaders from twenty-three states who bought a full page ad in the Phoenix newspaper, The Arizona Republic.
James Johnson, a friend of mine, sent me a Facebook message letting me know of the ad in newspaper. Johnson said, “Sixty Black leaders take a stand condemning Arpaio for his negligent actions and inhumane treatment of people and call on Attorney General of the United States Eric H. Holder and the department of Justice to prove once and for all that this is not Arpaio's America.”
The ad compared Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to the infamous 1960s Birmingham public safety commissioner Theophilus Eugene “Bull” Connor. The ad drew a pointed comparison of the Civil Rights Movement of the1960s, in which Blacks led the national fight for civil rights, and stood up against the terror and racism of public safety commissioner “Bull” Connor.
Blacks under the leadership of Martin Luther King, lead the national fight for change and against the poverty and segregation which at the time created a deep social divide between whites and people of color in our nation. The ad highlighted the leadership of Blacks during the 1960s.
Blacks in the United States have long been a guiding conscience in our nation. Unlike many social movements which focus on narrow policy goals, the social gains that Blacks struggle for tend to be broad-minded and expansive. The 1960s Civil Rights Movement for instance lifted many Americans of various races, ethnicities and nationalities up out of poverty and stifling segregation. It was this very Civil Rights Movement that strengthened, at least for a time, the social safety net that provided publicly funded pre-school and breakfast programs for our most vulnerable youth.”
In a very strongly worded statement, the ad perhaps represented the first national show of solidarity by the sixty prominent Black leaders with the comprehensive immigration reform movement. The ad which was very straight forward and strongly worded stated, “Regardless of our diverse views on immigration,” said Center for New Community staff James Johnson, “we stand on the side of justice in the treatment of people and we are putting the country on notice that we will not be silent when confronted by the abuse of the law to terrorize people.”
Eric Ward, in his blog Image*2050, wrote, “For over a year people from throughout Arizona bravely stood up to Arpaio’s terror. The same can’t be said of the Director of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, who has sat on her hands and allowed Arpaio free reign to intimidate political opponents and dehumanize suspects based on their national origin. Napolitano could stop Arpaio with the stroke of a pen at any time.”
I believe the Center for New Community sent a strong signal to the 10,000 marchers that we can work together and “put the country on notice that we will not be silent when confronted by the abuse of the law to terrorize people.”
I am encouraged and strengthened in my fight for justice and righteousness by the fact that this group of prominent Blacks signed this advertisement and placed it in The Arizona Republic. Placing the ad on the day of the march against Arapio is a positive step toward a united battle against terror, abuse of authority, and that we will not allow the law to be used against us like it was used in the civil rights movement and by racist cops like public safety commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor….and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arapio.
Perhaps the best way to sum up my thoughts on the peaceful 10,000 strong march in Phoenix, and significant ad by 60 Black leaders condemning Arapio, is to highlight what Eric Ward stated in his blog, Sixty Black Leaders Condemn Sheriff Arapio. “K.L. Shannon, The Police Accountability Chair with the NAACP in Seattle, Washington, said that ‘Sheriff Arpaio is beginning to resemble arch-segregationist Bull Connor and that should send a chill through each of our hearts”
...And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land. So I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man.
Martin Luther King Jr., Speech in Memphis, April 3, 1968, the day before King was assassinated
Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to preach in 1972.