About 100 immigrants rights activists marched six miles through central Phoenix, urging the city not to change police policy which currently bans officers from asking people they stop about their citizenship status.
The march began at Pruitt’s Furniture, at 36th Street and Thomas — the site of weekly demonstrations since its owner asked Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio earlier this fall to crack down on day laborers gathering in the area. It ended at City Hall, where about 25 marchers addressed the last City Council meeting of the year. They urged council members to reject Mayor Phil Gordon’s proposal for changing police policy.
“We wanted the city to understand that the tactics of the sheriff are exactly the tactics that are going to be adopted if the mayor’s proposal were to go forth, and we’re trying to bring those to light. There are many, many people in this community who don’t believe that racial profiling is going on,” said former state lawmaker Alfredo Gutierrez, one of the march organizers.
Seven illegal immigrants were arrested during the march, most of them during traffic stops near Pruitt’s, the sheriff’s office said.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio denied allegations that he was trying to intimidate the marchers by having deputies stationed along the route and having a sheriff’s van trail them.
“This is a serious problem, and we’re not going to be intimidated and we’re going to enforce the illegal immigration laws, regardless of these protests,” Arpaio said.
Meanwhile, Salvador Reza, chief organizer of the weekly Saturday protests outside Pruitt’s, said they probably will continue after the holidays, for as long as sheriff’s deputies work outside the store.
“If the sheriff still insists on lending off-duty, ICE-trained sheriffs for private use so they can intimidate the community, yes,” Reza said in answer to a question about whether the protests will continue.
“If Mr. (Mike) Sensing (Pruitt’s owner) decides that it’s better for him to hire private security guards, then at that moment we’ll stop,” he said.
Gov. Janet Napolitano, at a regular news briefing Wednesday, stayed neutral on Phoenix Police policy toward illegal immigrants.
“The mayor now has appointed a panel. I think they ought to have a chance now to come back and advise the community about what they think the policy ought to be. So let’s see what they advise,” Napolitano said.
The panel is made up of former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, former U.S. Attorneys Juan Rivera and Paul
Charlton and former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley. Gordon asked the group to come up with recommendations for changes in police policy by the end of the year.