Thousands Protest Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Tent City Jail
You’ve undoubtedly read all about Joe Arpaio, the Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff, who prides himself on being a hardliner on immigration and an outspoken critic of President Obama.
Such a hardliner, in fact, that last month the Department of Justice announced that it had had enough of Arpaio and was suing the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. The suit asks a federal judge to issue an order against discriminatory practices by sheriff’s deputies, and to require the Sheriff’s Office to eliminate a “pattern or practice of unlawful conduct.”
The sheriff has said the Justice Department’s investigation of his immigration patrols was a politically motivated attack by the Obama administration and denied allegations of systematic discriminatory policing.
In case you weren’t aware of this, there is also the issue of the sheriff’s “tent city.”
Thousands of protesters rallied in Phoenix last Saturday night, calling for the closure of a “inhumane” complex of canvas prison tents and claiming that confinement to the “tent city” violates prisoners’ human and constitutional rights.
From The Guardian:
Last year, temperatures inside the temporary structures hit 145 degrees, more than 30 degrees hotter than the outside high for that day. The canvas jail, which has been criticised by an Amnesty International report, can house up to 2,000 inmates, all of whom have been convicted of non-violent crimes.
“We are with you,” protesters chanted in both English and Spanish at yesterday’s demonstration, in hopes that inmates could hear them.
Most protesters held candles and wore yellow T-shirts that read “standing on the side of love”, a slogan of the Unitarian Universalist Association, which was holding its annual convention in Phoenix this weekend.
The Unitarians organized the rally along with the immigrant-rights group Puente Arizona.
By way of response, Arpaio has repeatedly said he doesn’t see any problems with housing inmates in tents and often points out that some members of the US military live in tents.
Let’s just say that Arpaio enjoys making inflammatory statements.
In fact, as The Associated Press points out, Arpaio is a national political fixture who built his reputation on jailing inmates in tents during Phoenix’s triple-digit summer heat, dressing inmates in pink underwear, selling himself to voters as unceasingly tough on crime and pushing the bounds of how far local police can go to confront illegal immigration.
Meanwhile, a new book may well add more fuel to the fire surrounding Joe Arpaio. “If There Were Any Victims…” by Bill Louis, a retired El Mirage assistant police chief, promises to look into the El Mirage, Arizona, child sex-crime cases mishandled by Arpaio’s office.
Now that should be interesting reading.
Photo Credit: ONE/MILLION