Thousands march against fascist Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Phoenix, Ariz.

Immigrant workers, supporters take stand against racist attacks

Thousands of protesters poured onto one of the busiest streets in downtown Phoenix, Ariz., to march against pro-fascist Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The Feb. 28 national march was organized by the National Day Labor Organizing Network and local organizations. The ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and the Party for Socialism and Liberation supported and participated in this important action.

Protest against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Phoenix, Ariz, 2009
Sheriff Joe Arpaio's racist practices have sparked
a wave of protests.
Arpaio, who the New York Times called "America’s worst sheriff," has garnered national attention for his viciously racist tactics used to terrorize the immigrant community. He is nothing short of a fascist, and he is proud of it.

Arpaio has maintained a policy of humiliating his inmates, even forcing them to wear custom-made pink-colored underwear and handcuffs. He has paraded jailed immigrants down major streets, and handcuffed them and stripped them to their underwear in public. Prisoners are forced to live in the notorious "Tent City"—a fenced-off outdoor jail—where the temperature reaches 150 degrees and where people only get two meals per day. Arpaio’s practices go far beyond even the racist standards of the criminal justice system in the United States.

Arpaio has built a police force consisting of deputized Minutemen and Klan members trained to target Latino workers. He has essentially declared war against undocumented immigrants through his use of a local program called 287(g). Passed by U.S. Congress in 1996, this law empowered local police to partner with the federal government for immigration enforcement programs.

Under 287(g), traffic police, jail guards and all other law enforcement agents can be transformed into a deportation squad. Arpaio has used the law to attempt to sweep Maricopa County of all undocumented workers, employing his storm trooper-like police force to raid day laborer centers. He uses racial profiling wherever his deputies operate. Arpaio has bragged about the power that 287(g) gives him: "When we stop a car for probable cause, we take the other passengers too."

Arpaio also claims to have an army of over 3,000 citizens, 500 of them armed, who aid local law enforcement in "fighting crime." His supporters represent the most racist, anti-immigrant sectors in Arizona. These terror squads have wreaked havoc on the immigrant community, tearing apart thousands of families.

Appearing on CNN’s right-wing Lou Dobbs show, Arpaio commented on being called a member of the KKK: "I think it’s an honor." Dobbs chuckled in tacit agreement. This statement reveals the true nature of Arpaio’s repressive apparatus in Maricopa County. His open identification with fascist forces who murdered thousands of African Americans makes Arpaio’s objectives crystal clear.

While Arpaio is the public face of these outrageous anti-immigrant strategies, the Arizona government is no better. The state legislature has used 287(g) to turn its "anti-gang" units into "gang and immigration" units. It has poured millions of taxpayer dollars into the enforcement of anti-immigrant laws.

But the immigrant community and its allies have not reacted to these attacks with fear. On the contrary, they have taken to the streets to stand up against Arpaio and his crew of racist thugs. Demonstrations against Arpaio organized by immigrant rights groups and day laborer centers have taken place on a regular basis.

Feb. 28 was the culmination of these actions. That demonstration represented a multinational, multigenerational force of roughly 4,000 people who had the militancy to take to the streets in the face of such brutal repression.

The ANSWER Coalition and the Party for Socialism and Liberation participated in the Feb. 28 march. Chanting in English and Spanish and carrying a banner that read, "Stand Against Racism: Down with the Minutemen/KKK," the groups marched with day laborers, students, faith-based organizations, members of the Native community and others.

The mass protest proved that while the attacks on immigrants are rising, a militant response of workers and progressives is uniting to beat back the racist attacks—including Arpaio’s right-wing police force.

Down with Arpaio! Full rights for all immigrants now!

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