Small, peaceful celebrations were held July 28 after U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton halted key elements of Arizona’s immigration law, but that all changed the following day as protesters filled the streets, blocked roads and caused civil disobedience that got dozens arrested.
Former state Sen. Alfredo Gutierrez, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2002, was among those arrested. Other reports indicated Hispanic activist Salvador Reza was arrested as well.
Hundreds of protesters crowded onto the streets in downtown Phoenix to send the message that the injunction on S1070 didn’t go far enough. Many of them said they wanted the entire law stopped in its tracks.
Police began to make arrests July 29 as dozens of members from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, a spiritually diverse faith group, gathered outside Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s offices at the Wells Fargo Building in downtown Phoenix.
Minutes later, hundreds of protestors joined the faith group, blocking Washington Street near Phoenix City Hall.
Sara LaWall, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, joined the crowd as they chanted “Arpaio, let our people go.” She said the group has been praying to stop the injustices of S1070 but it has not been enough.
“It’s more important to be out in the streets with the people who are affected by this legislation and to let them know we stand in solidarity with you, and we will go to jail with you,” LaWall said.
Bolton’s ruling kept several portions of Arizona’s immigration law from taking effect, including a provision that would have required police officers to check the immigration status of people they stop, detain or arrest.
Mark Spencer, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, said for the past two years, police officers have already been contacting Immigration and Customs Enforcement when they come in contact with someone they have a reasonable suspicion to believe is in the country illegally and is connected with a crime. Spencer said Bolton’s decision to halt some of the major provisions of S1070, however, does not help officers combat illegal immigration.
“She took out some components that are valuable tools to proactively address the crime of illegal immigration,” Spencer said.
Another mass act of civil disobedience caused more arrests as protesters created a human chain outside the Maricopa County Jail, blocking the entrance.
Sandra Castro, 22, of Tempe, yelled chants such as, “We will not comply” and “Arrest Arpaio, not the people” into a microphone as she stood in front of hundreds of people outside the jail.
“We are here to close down the jail and not let anyone in here if Arpaio is going to keep violating people’s rights,” Castro said.
Two sheriff’s deputies gave the group five minutes to leave before arresting them for unlawful assembly.
Ernesto Lopez, 23, of Buckeye, was among those arrested outside the jail. He said Arizona’s immigration law represents injustice to the immigrant community.
“We’re tired of having our people treated as criminals, because undocumented people are not criminals,” Lopez said. “They are here for many reasons, for food, for hunger, for a better life.”
The group was also there protesting a federal agreement – 287G – that gives local police the authority to initiate deportation proceedings against undocumented immigrants.
“Arpaio has been doing everything that he has been allowed to do because of 287G, and SB1070 is only a replica of 287G,” Castro said. “Right now he is out in the streets racial profiling people asking for their documents and arresting those who are only here to work.”
Vigils outside the Capitol and a concert outside the Maricopa County Jail were scheduled for the evening of July 29.
Rosa Maria Soto of Glendale, who participated in prayer vigils and camped outside the Capitol for more than 100 days in protest of the immigration law, said there is still more work to be done to stop S1070.
“We have to keep in mind that this is only the beginning; there’s still a long fight ahead of us,” Soto said.