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Capitol braces for marchers

The House closed for business at 11 a.m. today and staff was sent home. Lawmakers will be the only ones allowed in the building.
Verbal fireworks
Verbal fireworks were popping all over the Senate floor last week in advance of today’s pro-immigration march, with Sen. Barbara Leff, R-11, lighting the fuse.
Senate President Ken Bennett’s briefing before adjournment last Thursday about today’s massive demonstration triggered 30 minutes of floor speeches, one from Sen. Barbara Leff, R-11, that lighted a firestorm among the body’s Hispanic and Native American members and opposition from Sen. Thayer Verschoor, R-22, who said the Senate and the government should be open for business.
Ms. Leff remarked: “I’m finding it increasingly offensive … I think we should shut government down and blame the people who are creating the problem …We are talking about 100,000 people who are going to be walking … admitting they are here illegally … they expect to be respected, but they are not respecting the laws of this country.”
Choking back tears, Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia, D-27, said, “It’s disheartening when folks all of a sudden call everybody illegal. I’m not going to be illegal. I will bring my granddaughter to march along side me because it’s going to affect her. It’s difficult to recognize and accept … just because someone has brown skin …”
Mr. Garcia was followed by Sen. Albert Hale, D-2, who said, “We have to be very careful about what we say. I speak to you has a member of the Navajo Nation. My people were here long before your forefathers. I was an illegal until 1932.”
Sen. Rebecca Rios, D-23, said she wanted to put a different face on who’s going to march. “It will be me with my 10-year-old son, Diego, who’s very dark skinned, and will some think he’s a criminal because of the color of his skin≠” She added that her elderly grandfather, who was a bombardier in World War II, also will be marching with her.
Senate Minority Leader Linda Aguirre, D-16, spoke about illegal immigrants. “They want to stay. They want to be productive citizens. When you look at the brown faces that day and you see Senator Rios, you’ll recognize her face, but how many people will do that.”
New survey
Meanwhile, a new survey indicates that immigration is among the nation’s top issues. The Associated Press reports that the survey suggests the public is keeping close watch on the immigration debate in Congress and reaction around the country.
No trash cans at Capitol
As a security measure, workers removed many if not all of the trash cans from the Capitol grounds around the House and Senate last Friday. Which probably means that after the march the Capitol area probably will look trashy.
Capitol protection
Shortly before 10 a.m. today, at least five state sharpshooters were spotted by an Arizona Capitol Times reporter in strategic positions atop the House and Senate buildings. Authorities declined immediate comment, and it wasn’t clear what they are looking for, or when they would be authorized to shoot..
Some agencies locked
Diane Bain, PIO for the Department of Mines and Mineral at 1502 W. Washington, says the museum is closed but department is open. Front door is locked, the east door is open. “We have armed guards,” she sys. “It’s kind of a blur in here. Of our seven full time employees, five have shown up, two others are telecommuting.”
Museum and department restrooms/services are open to security personnel and state employees
Mike Becker, PIO of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission at 1616 W. Adams, says six employees all showed up. The building is open, and guards are expected to be stationed inside. “It’s just a regular work day,” Mr. Becker says.
Katie Decker, PIO at the Department of Agriculture, 1688 W. Adams, says the building is closed, but people can be let in by speaking with guard at the rear entrance. Another officer is inside of building. Marchers will not be allowed inside the building. Normally about 80-85 people, not including inspectors, arrive in the morning to get their assignments. Only 20 to 25 are in the building today. The rest are telecommuting. So is Ms. Decker.
J.W. Brown, PIO for Maricopa County Superior Court in downtown Phoenix, says the courts “will not be closing down today. We’ve got too many customers who rely on us to be open.” The court offered employees the possibility to telecommute, which must be approved by a supervisor. Mr. Brown is checking to see how many employees they have at downtown location and how many have shown up.
No numbers on cops, workers
Alan Ecker, PIO for the Department of Administration, says law enforcement will be reluctant to release number of officers on duty for march/protestors to help maintain public safety. A total of 350 Port-a-Potties are in Capitol Mall area. Mr. Ecker says the portable toilets have been paid for by Somos America, a group supporting the march.
In all, 9,000 state employees work in or around Capitol Mall area. It is not yet clear how many are at work today and how many are absent or telecommuting, says Mr. Ecker.
There are no estimations of costs to state due to lost work days, damages, increased security presence, road closures, etc.
Parking at a premium
A vacant lot near the Capitol at 19th Avenue and Adams was with more than 100 cars by 10:30 a.m. Marchers were apparently parking and walking the mile to the Maricopa County Fairgrounds where is set to start at 1 p.m.
Immigration march photos and preparations can be seen in our photo gallery – click on the bar in the left-hand corner of our Web site: www.azcapitoltimes.com

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