Following years of outcry from Hispanics and activists fighting his controversial policies and a re-election campaign that spent more than $7 million, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been rewarded a sixth term in office.
His acceptance interviews were just what we’ve come to expect from America’s toughest sheriff — a tone rife with mockery and arrogant flair, including a promise to run again in four years despite slowly declining approval.
Obvious, and expected, until his call for reconciliation with Hispanics.
Let me just wrap my head around this for a second. Bear with me while I mull over the irony here.
For nearly two decades, Arpaio has reigned over Maricopa County and the Hispanic community with an iron fist. His policies have tormented not only immigrants seeking a better life in the U.S., but the livelihood of legal citizens as well. He has attacked anyone who criticizes his policies. Take for example, the middle of the night arrests of Phoenix New Times owners Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin in 2007.
From accusations of abuse-of-power, to negligence, from money laundering, to racial profiling and civil rights abuses, it would seem Arpaio has had plenty of chances to redeem himself.
Walk west down Washington Street toward the Wells Fargo building where Arpaio’s office is housed, and you will notice a daily stream of regular demonstrators parked along the sidewalk.
I walk this street daily and have never once seen him come out to discuss these protestors’ concerns.
Puente Arizona, a grassroots movement dedicated to ousting Arpaio, has headquarters located in the downtown Phoenix area. For years this group has worked tirelessly for their cause. They have organized countless marches, candlelight vigils, rallies and a myriad of other events.
I can guarantee you that Arpaio has never once stepped foot in their office.
I once attended a rally in opposition to Senate Bill 1070. The demonstration was one of the more peaceful SB 1070 protests I have attended — most of which have remained peaceful anyway.
Near nightfall, word spread among the crowd that police adorned in riot gear were on their way to arrest any demonstrators who stepped off the sidewalk or became violent in any way. All were urged by organizers to remain peaceful.
MCSO helicopters soared overhead as rain began to fall and officers lined the sidewalk.
Moments later, there he was: Arpaio. It was the first time I, and many others, had ever seen him in person. Years of anger and hurt for the torment against the city I love and a community of people I’ve grown up with my entire life began to surge through my vessels. The heat was almost intolerable. I saw in the faces of other demonstrators that I was not alone.
The anger increased as Arpaio walked in front of the crowd behind police armed with shields and weapons and said nothing. He walked slowly — and did nothing. He gave an interview to Fox 10 and walked back inside.
He was attempting to incite a riot and there was absolutely no chance he was going to work out his issues with activists.
It is because of this memory, and so many others, that I urge the Hispanic community and those who oppose Arpaio to keep doing what it has been doing for years.
Do not work with a criminal. Do not concede. Do not give up.
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