Marchers waved signs reading We are Human! and Arpaio: terrorista and chanted Si, se puede (Yes, we can); Arpaio escucha, estamos en la lucha (Listen Arpaio, were in the struggle); and No more Joe! Joe Arpaio is the county sheriff.
Starting with more than 1,000 at the gathering point, the ranks of the march swelled as people joined in along the four-mile route and crowded the plaza for a rally at the Federal Building.
Sheriff Arpaio drew nationwide attention on February 4 when he forced more than 200 Latino prisoners to march through the streets of Phoenix before TV news cameras, in shackles and prison stripes, from the jail to a tent prison set up to detain immigrants in the desert.
Outrage against this helped galvanize activists in a coalition of organizations, including Somos America, Tonatierra, Puente Arizona, and Arizona ACORN, to organize the February 28 march.
The National Day Laborer Organizing Network and other organizations helped build the action in other cities. As a result of these efforts, hundreds of protesters came from throughout the West.
Zack de la Rocha, lead singer for Rage Against the Machine, marched at the head of the demonstration and spoke at the rally. He and other speakers condemned Apaios deputized vigilantes, the so-called volunteers that have been deputized as federal immigration agents by Arpaio to terrorize immigrant communities. Many in the area refer to the deputies as Arpaios posse. They are armed and some wear ski masks to hide their identity while making arrests.
Many marchers expressed relief and satisfaction that, after witnessing these abuses over the course of several years, they were now able to be part of a large demonstration in opposition.
Its great to see all this unity, said Vicky Cervantes, who makes her living cleaning houses. Recalling the mobilizations for legalization of immigrants in the spring of 2006, she said, When people come together, we can push them back.
Layal Rabat, a student at Arizona State University, came with two friends. She said she wanted to protest the mistreatment of prisoners in the jails, pointing to the case of a woman who gave birth to a stillborn baby after being refused the necessary emergency care. Arpaio, who has been sheriff since l992, faces numerous lawsuits stemming from abusive treatment of prisoners.
Juan Vallejo, a young construction worker, marched with his two high school age cousins in T-shirts saying Stop Arpaio. We are here to help our people, Vallejo said. We are losing jobs and losing houses.
Chants of No more Joe grew louder as the march passed the Wells Fargo Tower where Arpaio has his headquarters and where some 150 counterdemonstrators gathered, some holding signs saying We Support Sheriff Joe.
Signs saying Revoke Arpaios 287(g) were among the most popular carried by the demonstrators. This refers to Arpaios official partnership with the U.S Department of Homeland Security (ICE) in carrying out the raids. Section 287(g) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act allows state police and employees to work under the supervision of ICE officers in performing so-called immigration law enforcement functions.
Salvador Reza, one of the central organizers of the February 28 demonstration, told the Militant that building on the success of the action, he hopes the movement against the raids can be strengthened nationally. Arpaios posse, he points out, is a threat not only to immigrants but to any worker who plans to go on strike or organize a union.
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