"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."—Dick the butcher

Friday, August 13, 2010

Civil Disobedience in Phoenix

I have been waiting for the emotions of the post-SB 1070 injunction time period to subside some before I made this post.

After all, I am relatively new to the observation of Phoenix politics, new to residing in the Phoenix metropolitan area (in fact, I’m still up north for the summer), and I hardly qualify as an observer entitled to second guessing.

I am not; however, new to civil disobedience.  (among other forms thereof)

And besides, ignorance has never kept me from expounding excessively in the past.  I shall try to keep my remarks temperate.

In life, as in comedy, timing is everything.

Ask Andy Roddick, who became the #1-ranked tennis player in the world in 2003.  (great life, but came into his own winning his first Grand Slam during the start of the reign of the most dominant tennis player ever—Roger Federer—Roddick immediately lost his ranking, and has not won another Grand Slam.  It has haunted him.)

Ask George W. Bush, who without help could not lead a troop of boy scouts out of the woods back to the safety of the suburbs.  (he lost the 2000 Presidential election to Al Gore, but won it because he happened to be running when a Supreme Court justice wanted to retire to Arizona under a Republican President, and another Justice had bitterly complained of a “high-tech lynching” supported by Senator Gore at the Justice’s confirmation hearings in his nomination submitted by Bush’s father, and those Justices joined three other conservative Republican Justices in abandoning career-long states’ rights recognition to overturn Florida’s Presidential election and give the victory to Bush; Bush 43 also happened to be President when Al Qaeda attacked the United States, leading to a sharp upsurge in popularity, which he needed to survive his Vice-President’s concocting stories about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction so that the United States could justify a needless, senseless, and expensive war against Iraq.)

On July 28, 2010, the Hon. Susan R. Bolton of the United States District Court in Phoenix, Arizona enjoined the most regressive and divisive piece of legislation since the decade leading up to the Civil War, a century and a half ago: SB 1070July 29, 2010, the date SB 1070 had been scheduled to take effect, should have been cause for celebration, but instead it saw civil disobedience and protesting in Phoenix like the city has not seen before.

This anomaly in the reaction to victory can be felt in watching two dynamite videos by Arizona activist Dennis Gilman.  In the first video, shot on the day of the federal court hearing on the injunction request, July 22, 2010, the protest feels righteous, pure.  To most people at the time, SB 1070 still seems like an open question, and the justifiable response, even in the words of an innocent child is “We will not comply.”  Hispanic activist Carlos Garcia’s words ring true, the look in his eyes resolute as he heads off into no man’s land—custody courtesy of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.  The scene construction, editing, and music of the video all give it a dynamic and synergistic effect.

In contrast, the second video, shot on July 29, 2010 the day after Judge Bolton issued her decision, provokes a much different feeling.  Not that it is not a similarly great video.  It is, but for different reasons.

The protests seem contrived, staged.  They lack the real urgency and feeling of the July 22, 2010 protest.  The biggest reason for holding them feels like it is to get on television.  That is not a totally bad thing, especially since it has been the tactic of the fascist MCSO led by head nazi himself Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  Such tactics need to be countered, but it is critical in my humble opinion not to give up the moral high ground.  The protests of July 29, 2010 risked doing that.

And don’t tell me SB 1070 is still in effect.  That’s just damn silly, almost on a par with those who say that there was nothing in SB 1070 that called for racial profiling.  The entire guts of SB 1070 were ripped from the bill, and what is left has no life of its own, or significance, whatsoever.

It has not been formally struck down yet, only enjoined until a full hearing on the merits, but if you’re one of those who holds out hope that at least as much of SB 1070 that Bolton enjoined won’t be struck down, do yourself a favor—don’t bet the ranch on it.  In fact, if there is anybody foolish enough out there to bet that it won’t be struck down, and there are likely enough already-drank-the-Kool-Aid right-wingers in Arizona alone to start a hedge-fund bet, I am willing to take the opposite side up to and including any amount not to exceed 653 gazillion, gatrillion, gabillion dollarsTimes 2.

Not that there isn’t any remaining justification for civil disobedience.  And in fairness, the protests were focused in that direction.  They just seem ill-timed.

My favorite parts of the second video were the sign on the door the Fourth Avenue Jail—“Help Sheriff Arpaio Fight Illegal Immigration” and “Become a Deputy Sheriff, Laterals Welcome”, and the 4’8” female member of the MCSO riot squad who the MCSO placed on the front line of the phalanx.

First, what the hell does fighting illegal immigration have to do with being a county sheriff, or a deputy sheriff?  Aren’t they supposed to keep us safe?  Who is doing that while they fight the invasion from the South?  Even the police chief of the conservative city of Mesa (George Cascon) knows the answer to this one.  Answer—NOBODY IS.

Second, not only are laterals welcome, but evidently potential riot team members of any height, weight, sex, or physical infirmity are encouraged to apply to not only fight illegal immigration, but control unarmed protestors who get too close to garage doors.

I felt sorry for this lady (she looked like a female on the video).  It was a question of symbolism.  She probably can do her job just fine.

However, the real protest is not against SB 1070 anymore.

The real protest is against Joe Arpaio (except the feds are planning a long vacation for him anyway), and the idea that there is room for future Arpaio’s like Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, or state legislator Russell Pearce.

Speaking of that great legal drafter Pearce, the real protest is against racist-connected Russell Pearce.

The real protest is against ignoramus Governor Jan Brewer.

The real protest is against 287g and Secure Communities; they have to end.

The real protest is against the Republican party’s recalcitrance to participate in immigration reform so that they can exploit racial issues for a short-term gains in votes.  (to their long-term detriment, this is one side benefit)

The real protest is against activist conservative judges chipping away for forty years at the Fourth Amendment in the righteous name of law and order.  As a result, profiling is legal.  As a result, racial profiling is legal.  As a result, pretext arrests are legal.

The police state is on the way, Hispanic cleansing or no.  What are you willing to do to stop it?

Civil disobedience has its place; it can be effective.  For a while though, it might not be a bad idea to focus more on educating the public, and voting.


  1. Marty, since you understand that 287g and other ICE ACCESS programs are the real problem, I am all the more baffled that you think there was no reason to protest on July 29th. Also, while the most controversial parts of the law were stripped, I disagree with your assessment that meant it was gutted. The parts that remained and went into effect on July 29th were the parts that target day laborers, making it virtually impossible for them to make a living in Arizona. Are we to be satisfied with a partial verdict when the most vulnerable among us remain under attack? I do not think so.

  2. I agree with a lot of what you say including your main point about timing being very important but I really don't understand why you think the civil disobedience was bad timing? I also agree that the biggest problem with Sb 1070 besides the obvious racist parts of it is how it starts the police state mentality. Making it acceptable and even normal for the police to arrest people on suspicion alone. Thank you to every person who acted in civil disobedience in Phoenix on those 29th and 30th.

  3. Interesting article Marty. I think the protests were appropriate due to the fact that we do still have many serious civil rights issues here in AZ that must be addressed and letting those who are in power know that the sleeping giant has awakened is a good thing.
    But I agree that getting out the vote is of vital importance now and cannot be stressed enough. Volunteering ones time with a voter registration group is the best thing you can do. I suggest everyone contact Mi Familia Vota or another organization to help make sure the underrepresented Latino and younger voters get to the polls this November. Only by doing this will we have a chance to shift the balance of power in Arizona.

  4. I like this article but I feel it missed one key point in why the timing of civil disobedeince on July 29 and 30 was so important. It almost destroyed Arpaio's anti-immigrant crime sweep. By tieing up his deputies, he did not have the resources to effectively terrorize the barrios as he has in the past. He failed to win the media war and looked like a fool while attempting to cater to National media. Had he not planned a sweep on the 29th-I doubt the actions would've taken place at such a historical rate. Arpaio's sweep actually was delayed from 12:00 AM to 12:30 PM, then rescheduled again to 4:00 on the 29th. (the first action took place in Guadalupe at the stroke of midnite. The street was blocked for over an hour. Guadalupe pays MCSO as it's LE, MCSO has abused the hell out of Guadalupes residents in the past yet they were at a loss as to what to do. The Mayor was called and agreed to meet with the protesters organizer to discuss Arpaio. That is what stopped the protest) His arrest numbers of undocumented immigrants for 2 days were the lowest in his 17 sweep history of terrorizing the people of Maricopa County.
    Until things return to what they were like at least 10 years ago, we can expect to see more boycotts, protests and DA.

  5. @ shaktinah, If you will reread my post, I think you might agree that on second thought I have not taken a position anywhere near as broad as “there was no reason to protest on July 29.”

    There were, and still are, plenty of reasons. (More than several reasons are, in fact, listed towards the end of the piece. I just felt that July 29 was simply not a good day to do it. (But see comment by Humanleague002, and my response)

    I could not disagree more with the rest of your comment, though I can sense where you are coming from. However, the legal reality is that Bolton’s opinion was a slam dunk, total victory for SB 1070 opponents. I’m not suggesting anyone should be satisfied, but in might make some sense to take a moment to be grateful before launching the next protest.

    Whether or not day laborers (or anyone else) can make a living in Arizona (or anywhere else these days) has nothing to with the legal fact that a law preventing them from impeding the flow of traffic in order to solicit work is going to be upheld. They might be under attack, but it is not by that provision of SB 1070, which after Bolton’s opinion has more value to right-wing extremists as toilet paper than it does as an immigration enforcement or harassment tool.

  6. @ Anonymous, I think that is a reasonable way to look at things, but if you did not understand why I thought it was bad timing, then perhaps I could have written the post more precisely.

    It seemed like Drew Brees had won the Super Bowl, but instead of going to Disney World with his family, he went off to the local high school to practice throwing footballs through tires. And he invited the media.

    It seemed too staged given the enormous importance of Bolton’s opinion, which by the way saved a whole lot of grief had SB 1070 not been enjoined.

    Another factor to consider—The “establishment” (for lack of a better word right now) will tolerate only so much civil disobedience before it will decide to crush it. It’s like spending political capital. Be careful how you use it.

    Overall, good comment though.

  7. @ Amy, Let them know about the sleeping giant a few days later. Bill it as the “there is so much left to do before we’re out of your face” protest. (But see comment by Humanleague002, and my response)

    The only long-term solution in Arizona is to vote the kooks out of office. Brewer, Pearce, McCain and just about every Arizona state legislator with an “R” after his or her name would be a good start.

  8. @Humanleague002, I cannot argue (nor would I want to) with the logic of your comment. It all makes a little more sense to me now given that information, and I feel like I should issue at least a partial “I stand corrected”.

    Very good point about the protests being in response to the planned and publicized sweep of the 29th. Why not bill it as that then? I think the national perception was that people were still upset about 1070 and what was left of it. It starts to look to some people a little like protest for protest’s sake, and they dismiss it.

    I do not think, however, that attempting to exhaust Arpaio resources (looks like feds might take of this next spring) is necessarily a winning strategy. Making him spend political capital, however, which perhaps some of this did, is.

    More boycotts, protests and DA are appropriate.

    Thanks for the input.

  9. Marty,

    I recognize that your intentions are good and that ultimately we are on the same side, but I think that you are speaking only from your own particular perspective yet believing it to have universal authority. It may be your "legal reality" that Bolton's decision was a "slam dunk" but I am talking about the "living reality" of the day laborers. You claim that their ability to make a living in Arizona is not affected by a law preventing them from soliciting work. On what basis do you know this? I think that the people who are actually affected by the law might actually be in a better position to determine whether SB1070 makes a difference in their lives. Because of the remaining intact provisions, and the continuing existence of 287g, and yes, because the massive arrests impeded Arpaio's sweeps, NDLON, Puente and other grass-roots groups asked people to protest on July 29th, despite the partial injunction. As Puente said, "a split decision only serves to split our communities."

  10. @shaktinah-2d, the blog piece upon which you are commenting is about the civil disobedience that was planned for July 29, 2010, the day SB 1070 was scheduled to go into effect, and took place anyway despite the victory of the injunction against SB 1070 the afternoon before. It questioned the timing and some of the motivations of the protest.

    If you insist on putting words in my mouth, you could at least pay me the courtesy of making them the correct words. I did not claim that day laborers’ ability to make a living in Arizona is not affected by a law preventing them from soliciting work if they impede traffic in so doing. What I said was that such a law is surely legal, and implied that advocates for Hispanics and/or day laborers might be better advised to direct their resources elsewhere other than attacking the legality of and protesting against such a law.

    I do not claim universal authority; my experience has been quite the contrary. I do hope; however, that whatever experiences that I have had might lend some insight on the issues upon which I choose to speak.

    You make some good points about the issues that remain. These need to be addressed, particularly the abuses of 287g (which IMO should be trashed), the abusive and illegal conduct of Apraio, and do not forget “secure communities”.

    I respectfully disagree with Puente’s labeling Bolton’s opinion as a “split decision”. You could not have asked for a more complete victory at this stage.

    But Puente’s remark about “split our communities” has merit. Let’s not allow that to happen to us. If you choose to advocate for day laborers and the injustice in their lives, more power to you.