Friday, July 25, 2008

Police Raids on Immigrant Communities, Local

On July 8th, the Maricopa County Sheriff's department did a sweep on Mesa unannounced. Arpaio said they arrested 19 people in 5 hours and 18 of them were undocumented. The next day, they did a sweep in response to citizen (read racist) complaints in Cave Creek focusing in and around the Good Shepherd of the Hills Church, which was a location of a day labor center up until a few months ago. Also an article states, "Recently a federal court shot down an ordinance which would have loitering or soliciting work from a roadway illegal" (Source).

On July 15, the Phoenix PD brought over a dozen patrol cars to the area of Home Depot near the Macehualli day labor center. From an eyewitness account, a few people were detained in different locations, but the police did not stick around the area for long.

Arpaio is likely to hit Mesa soon again. It is highly likely that it will be unannounced.

There will be a protest against Arpaio at his booksigning at borders books at 2402 E Camelback Road, phoenix tomorrow/saturday at 12:30pm.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Graffiti targets sheriff

One or more graf artists hit an area of mesa, depicting the sheriff with the words "NAZI JOE". Sheriff joe had recently done one of his immigration sweeps in the area. But this is how channel 5 tells it:

Graffiti vandals hit a building in Mesa but the taggers had a message of hate aimed at Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Hate message? More like telling it like it is. He said he was honored to be compared to the KKK. Even if they do hate the sheriff, how could it be considered a hate crime? That's the most ridiculous thing i've ever heard. If they consider that a hate crime, certainly his racial profiling sweeps is a hate crime!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Immigrants Rights/Police Brutality Disconnect

People have been terrorized by police violence since, well, probably the the first police existed. The poorer you are, the darker your skin, the more likely you are to be effected by police brutality, whether directly or in your family. Because the police are viewed/portrayed as infallible and because their victim/survivors are portrayed as criminals, it is seen as okay. The treatment of undocumented people is also seen as okay because they are portrayed as criminals. The law enforcement terrorism brought against undocumented immigrants (and some who are not undocumented) include fear of deportation, separation of family members, bad conditions during detainment, and physical abuse. Getting justice for police brutality or other abuses is nearly hopeless for anyone, but must be so much worse for the undocumented who have rights, yet can just be deported.

While many understand this, somehow, many immigrants' rights advocates separate the issues in their mind. They celebrate politicians/cops who criticize sheriff joe's actions, but excuse the actions of the officers in their jurisdiction, no matter the abuses.

Take Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, who, upon finding out about an image-damaging article in Colorlines (Why So High?), denied the findings of their research about the high number of police shootings in Phoenix, particularly those against latinos. (I mentioned it in a previous blog post, High Number of Police Shootings in Phoenix). He insulted families and friends of lost loved ones killed by cops, implying that anyone hurt by the police deserve it because cops are infallible. The mayors' allegations about the data being incorrect were disputed by Colorlines, as discussed in the phoenix-based online publication, Barriozona.
This mayor also intiated a change to the phoenix police department's policy that makes it so that they ask all arrested persons about their immigration status. He was able to save face by being two-faced- criticizing Arpaio's tactics when the timing was right.

How about mesa police chief gascon, also criticizing arpaio's tactics, but not the actual act of immigration enforcement. Just days after the recent sweeps in Mesa, the media reported that Mesa was changing their policy to one that sounds similar to Phoenix's. Gascon hails from L.A. where he was an officer of increasing ranks through the years. He was there for the Rodney King beating and the various other incidents of police brutality. He has been the Mesa PD chief for nearly 2 years, and as far as i know, has not done anything to rectify the 2003 mesa police shooting of Mario Madrigal Jr., who was 15. I hope his family can get some justice. Not very appropriate is the feathered bastards' recollection of the recent mesa sweeps, "Gascon... resembled a rock star, cheered by the crowds and hailed as a hero for his actions." (Source).

Guess who was in the mesa pd when this and several other shooting deaths occurred: Dan saban, the guy who several immigrants rights advocates are helping in some way to campaign to oust arpaio as maricopa county sheriff. Running as a democrat, although a republican most of his life (Source) (and probably still), Saban is being painted as an advocate of immigrants, although really he just feels that it shouldn’t be the job of the police to enforce immigration law. He has said he’d keep tent city (Source) which is one of the worst crimes committed in this county. Sure, he’s probably not as bad a guy as arpaio, but will those who are helping him campaign protest his abuses?

Gerald Richard, a name not well known, might become more popular as his campaign against Andrew Thomas gets more public. He showed up to the Citizen’s Walk for Human Dignity in May to get his petitions signed. Richard was until recently, a legal advisor to the Phoenix PD. Micheal Lacey of the New Times newspaper, who had been acquainted with him for several years said, "He never gave an inch when it came to defending a cop." (Source). Which must be why he played a role in keeping Louie Arriaga Jr. in prison for defending himself against police brutality. Richard apparently claimed that Louie Jr.’s father insulted him and that’s why he opposed a settlement even after the officer involved said he’s cool with Louie going on time served. Luciano Sr. says he has witnesses that he did not disrespect Richard. If you don’t know about Louie’s case, please check out Gerald Richard was quoted as saying “I’m waiting for someone to call me a liberal. Because when they do, I’m going to tell them, ask the guy I put away for 10.5 years how liberal that was. Ask the one who got 15 years how liberal that was.” Looks like he’s got something to prove. Oh, and he also said, before the Phoenix PD policy change on asking about immigration status, that he supported the proposed changes (Source).

It is not a coincidence that these men are being supported by immigrants rights advocates yet they have ties to police brutality. You could pick any cop or politician and they probably have ties to police brutality and they are probably two faced. It’s part of the job. The point is not “don’t vote for that guy, he’s a jerk,” but that none of these people are a solution to the problems facing our communities today. Police and politicians do not stop crime. Crime exists for reasons way beyond their direct control- and actually in many cases they contribute to the reasons for crimes- these reasons include inequality in access to basic needs like food, shelter, and a healthy environment.

I could go on and on about this. I guess if anything, if you have to campaign for or celebrate one of these guys or someone like them, at least keep the perspective that these men are not true choices- just the only choices on the ballot. And show your support for those fighting against police brutality and other various abuses by the system.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Employer Sanctions Law Applies to New Hires Only

A while back, i commented on the amazing confusion about to whom the new employer sanctions law applies (WTF Just Happened? Employer Sanctions for new hires or not...). Today, while catching up on reading the local news, i found a casual acknowledgment that the legislature had worked it out and decided that it applied to those hired on/after January 1st. From what i could find (and i admit i hadn't had the time/access to be up on the news), there were no news stories that focussed only on this change. But considering the major confusion and the pure insanity of the fact that a law was passed and thousands of workers who were hired before january 1st didn't know if they could legally be fired, and businesses were firing people BEFORE the law went into effect so they wouldn't get in trouble, yet the law didn't even apply to the folks who were hired before january 1st. I can't believe the audacity of the people who left this in limbo until several months after the law went into effect. And no one makes a big deal out of it!

While searching for news articles on the change to the law, i found a number of articles about lawsuits, panels, etc. which may lead to another change to the law. The issue about whether E-verify is accurate enough, whether the state can force businesses to check legal status, etc. are up for debate. In addition, the sheriff's raid on golfland will apparently also "test" the law. And speaking of this raid, why did folks not make a big stink about this either?

Some good news: a couple ballot initiatives brought by racists pearce and goldwater (grassroots my ass) called L.A.W. and S.O.L.E. aren't going to the ballot. Not enough funding from Tanton's national organizations to go around anymore fellas? Another piece of good news is that a guest worker program failed to get a vote.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Cop vs. Cop: Sheriff and Mesa Chief spar over sweeps

One of the news reporters stated that the drama surrounding the sheriff’s sweeps in Mesa was like “Cop vs. Cop”. The news was more about the disagreement between county sheriff joe arpaio and mesa police chief gascon. If you watched some of the video footage, you could see arpaio so pissed you figure any moment he’s going to snap. He claims that gascon tried to stop him from doing his sweeps, although it’s not clear exactly how. Gascon claims that the sheriff was putting the people of mesa and his officers in danger, which I think is an interesting assertion. The cop on cop action overshadowed the real injustices occurring, yet anytime the cops are brawling, it’s usually a good thing for the people.


I was amazed at how convinced gascon was that a riot was going to break out due to the sheriff’s sweeps.
Mesa Police Chief George Gascón, citing growing concerns over possible civil unrest tied to anti-illegal immigration sweeps by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, is stepping up efforts to ensure public safety… [Sgt. Fabian] Cota said officers were recently told to make sure all their equipment was working properly including gas masks in the event of demonstrations. (Source).

The anxiety may in part have been due to how heated things got in Phoenix during the second round of sweeps, which included a mysterious man bringing a gun to the demonstration/counter-demonstration (gascon referenced Guadalupe as well, but there was hardly a protest, much less a riot there). I imagine it has to do with the fact that Gascon was an LAPD sergeant when the LA riots of 1992 broke out, which is also probably why he wanted so much to avoid a riot. Unless of course, he wasn't trying to avoid it. As one commentator on said, "For someone who doesn't want a riot, he sure does talk about it alot..."
Either way, I wouldn’t claim I could know whether or not a riot would happen, but I am surprised at how sure of it he was. I overheard an officer talking about the possibility of the vehicles near the protest site getting damaged.

There are several factors that could play into things getting heated again. That includes large numbers of racist counter-protesters. For the mesa sweeps, however, Riders USA, via, urged their members and members of other anti-immigrant groups not to show up, so the MCSO “can concentrate on performing their duties efficiently and most importantly safely”. It seems they also realize they contribute to an unsafe situation. A few anti-immigrant protesters showed up anyway. Back in April, Gascon also expressed his concern about a group of about 15 raucous pro-Arpaio demonstrators in early April, soon after Arpaio announced he’d be heading to Mesa.

Mesa PD are also in a unique position as far as information goes, because they had a Mesa PD officer undercover in white-supremacist groups.
Detective Matt Browning of the Mesa Police Department said he spent 12 years working undercover with three border militia groups and six White-supremacist organizations in Arizona, who he said are some of the "most violent, racist skinheads in the nation."

"Every meeting revolved around immigration," Browning said. (Source).

Yet, more amazing is how the Mesa PD talked about the possibility of violence being the sheriff’s fault. A man from the Mesa Police Association said, “Lives are in jeopardy, and MPA wants to prevent acts of violence and accidents from occurring. The Sheriff is creating a dangerous situation when emotions run high and weapons are involved.” Arpaio's Mesa crime suppression begins in new location. I have seen several clear examples of the cops initiating violence at mass gatherings, but usually it’s the people who are blamed for starting scuffles that are called “riots”. And despite the blow to Mesa PD’s ego caused by arpaio stepping on their turf and claiming they’re not doing their job, it’s really in the cops’ interest to maintain the concept that criminals start riots, not cops.

Although the media mostly makes it appear that Gascon prevented violence by causing the Sheriff to move out of the original location, Gascon’s preparation for the event was quite heavy-handed. Dozens of cops surrounded the medium-sized demonstration at the original site of the sheriff’s command unit. Police were equipped with pepper spray, riot gear, and there were SWAT units in hidden places. It seems that because nothing dramatic happened at the protest, that Gascon and/or the media purposely focused on Gascon’s preparation as it related to Arpaio. However, before the sweeps began, Gascon had a clear focus on demonstrators, as he said, in Gascon: Mesa ready if protesters turn out for crime sweep, “We had a group of people who have already been trained to deal with civil disobedience in handling crowd control. We've added some more people to that number and we have done some recent training…”

Arpaio was Pissed

Basically two things, from what I can determine, pissed Arpaio off. He claims Gascon leaked the information about the sweeps, and that Gascon was trying to prevent Arpaio from doing the sweeps by setting up a space for the protesters near the command center, and surrounding the area with mesa cops. The Feathered Bastard reported that Arpaio said, “The bottom line, he's doing everything to keep me from going into that city, lockin' up illegals." (Source).

Two other reports mentioned Arpaio’s attitude:

The Maricopa County sheriff blamed the city's police chief, George Gascón, for upstaging the event by creating safe places for protesters and having officers ready to quell violence should it break out. (Source).

Still, after the sheriff decided to change his game plan on Thursday and move deputies away from where protesters gathered, he blew up at Mesa's police chief and accused Gascón of actively seeking out media attention.
"We had to change our operation up because of all the hype," the sheriff said on Thursday night, adding that because of the "leak" he will not tell Gascón about future sweeps. (Source).

Funny, Arpaio said at a different time that he was trying to trick demonstrators by moving around.
… Arpaio said he intentionally stayed away from Mesa was to thwart the demonstrators.
"I wasn't afraid to go," Arpaio said. "The reason I did this was because they were waiting. I played a little game with them." (Source).

So which is it, Arpaio? And why does he think it’s okay to admit to playing games with the residents’ tax dollars?

Perhaps in private, Gascon has been more vocal about opposing Arpaio’s mission (you’d think there's something more that Arpaio is so pissed about), but he has not outright said that the sweeps are wrong. He has only criticized the sweeps as being a publicity stunt that could create danger for the people and the officers. He also critized the sheriff for not being cooperative and communicating with him. Also, Gascon was not the one who leaked the information about the sweeps. He actually found out from community members and the press before he got word from the sheriff. All this makes the sheriff look pretty paranoid.

Thus, compared to arpaio, gascon seemed like a good guy. Protesters apparently cheered for him. But i think it's very important to keep some things in mind. One, that he never said that enforcing immigration law was wrong, just that arpaio wasn't doing it preoperly. Additionally, what would have happened to protesters had things gotten heated? Mesa PD is known to kill people. (I plan to discuss the disconnect regarding police brutality and immigrant advocacy in a future post).

Today, news came out that the city of mesa is changing it's police policy (Source). It sounds similar to what the Phoenix PD recently adopted. Interestingly, phoenix mayor phil gordon initiated the change to that policy but is to some extent seen as a good guy for criticizing arpaio. Let us not be fooled into thinking these politicians are advocates for immigrants.