Revolution #209, August 15, 2010

Resistance in Phoenix

Leading up to July 29, the day when SB 1070 was set to become law, the eyes of the country, and even many around the world, were on Arizona.

A Phoenix group called Puente said they were asking "the city of Phoenix … not to comply with this law. This law is a racist law, an apartheid law." Local clergy prepared vigils and services in support of the federal lawsuit. Alto Arizona, which formed in response to 1070, had begun "organizing and preparing to mount the political, legal, and economic pressure needed to restore constitutional protections to the state." Busloads of people from Los Angeles, and groups and individuals from throughout the country, prepared to come to Arizona to protest 1070, and calls for non-compliance with the law were issued.

Artists stepped into the fray. Rage Against the Machine, Black Eyed Peas, Conor Oberst, and others announced a boycott of Arizona and organized a concert in Los Angeles to raise money for "Arizona Organizations Fighting 1070." On the other side, Elton John—fresh from being the troubadour at Rush Limbaugh's wedding—announced at a Tucson concert that artists against 1070 are "fucking twits."

Joe Arpaio, infamous sheriff of Maricopa County, held a "grand opening" for a new section of his notorious "Tent City" prison, and called it "Section 1070." "I am ready," Arpaio announced. "Section 1070 is ready. There will never be the excuse that this jail hasn't enough room for violators of SB 1070." Arpaio also said that a "crime suppression sweep" was scheduled for July 29.

Meanwhile, the sun-baked streets of Phoenix were unusually empty in many parts of town. The L.A. Times reported on July 26 that in the once bustling neighborhood of west Phoenix "the vast shopping center ... is almost empty. The Food City supermarket closed this spring. Then the furniture shop. Then the pizzeria. The giant apartment complex across the street, once brimming with tenants, is two-thirds vacant. David Castillo, co-founder of the Latin Association of Arizona, said ‘Brewer signed the law, and everything fell apart.'"

The Injunction, the Protests

Wednesday morning, July 28, Judge Susan Bolton announced her ruling. People soon began gathering at the Federal Courthouse and the State Capitol in downtown Phoenix. Initially the mood was mainly celebratory and festive. For many, that began to change as people looked closer at what Bolton had actually ruled, and as Arpaio continued his bluster and his attacks on the people.

On the night of July 28, about 70 people in Guadalupe—an unincorporated area of Maricopa County that has been particularly hard hit by Arpaio's raids—held an impromptu celebration. Avenida del Yaqui was barricaded and all traffic kept out for two hours. One woman said, "We do understand that not all of SB 1070 was passed. But that doesn't mean it's all right. Regardless of what the law says, we're all human beings. We shouldn't be treated as something else." 

On Thursday, July 29, hundreds of people marched and rallied against the implementation of Arizona's fascist repression of immigrants embodied in SB 1070, and against its chief enforcer, Joe Arpaio. Some sought ways to resist the raids, going into areas targeted for sweeps to stand with immigrants and stand up against the raids being carried out.

A young woman who had traveled from Oregon stated why she came: "I think this is one of the defining struggles of our generation, so we have to stand up, fight for what is right, for basic truths."

Dozens of people, including religious activists who are appalled by the dehumanization of immigrants in Arizona and throughout America, were arrested. Several members of Puente were also arrested Friday at a protest outside the main county prison complex in southwest Phoenix.

People came to these protests from diverse backgrounds. One young white man, a former marine, said: "[1070] is going to sweep up everybody, even if all it did was sweep up 100 percent undocumented immigrants it's disgusting and wrong.  So I think part of the way forward, is we have to continue to build, we have to make connections with different movements." 

A Chicano youth who has relatives and friends from Mexico and feels an obligation to stand up for them told Revolution, "I do know that we will not leave. We will be here forever. And there should be no borders anywhere. Especially the kinds of borders that people are putting upon our people, our society, our communities. And that should not be even existing. So all I know is that we will be continuing to fight for our rights."

Protests also took place in Tucson, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Mexico City, and other cities in the U.S. and Latin America.

Arizona Freedom Summer

Arizona Freedom Summer (AFS) was in the middle of this mix, taking out Revolution newspaper, the Message and Call from the RCP, "The Revolution We Need… The Leadership We Have," and with a plan for people to resist.

The plan AFS brought to people included a call to: Stop Sweeps and Deportations!; No Deportation Zone. On July 29, in one neighborhood where many immigrants live, a vision was put forward of numbers of people putting up "No Deportation Zone" signs in their windows and people actively finding the ways to make this a reality. The message of Arizona Freedom Summer and Revolution newspaper was brought to people throughout the city; and a call went out to  people to start their own No Deportation Zone.

On Monday, July 26, over 40 people, mainly Mexican immigrants, gathered in Phoenix for the first of two speakouts called by AFS against SB 1070 and its fascist assault on immigrants. The next night, over 20 came to a library in the university town of Tucson. The two crowds were different, but they shared a similarity of purpose─stopping 1070 and putting an end to deportations.

Squads from Arizona Freedom Summer went throughout the city: to barrios of Mexican and Chicano proletarians; to a pro baseball game; to a nightlife area in Tempe.  Some people were enthusiastic about the message, even though many immigrants are fearful of the shit coming down. Contempt for Arpaio is palpable. Some people, like at the baseball game and in Tempe, shouted insults and told AFS volunteers to "go back to where you came from." Some youth even thrust Nazi salutes when they realized what AFS was about. Maybe most surprising was the number of people in Tempe who claimed not to know much about the issue.

To many people against 1070, the AFS was like "a wind at their backs." A youth on the AFS squad described how he encountered various youths who were frustrated with the level and type of protest against such a vicious assault as 1070. "What you're talking about, about the need for revolution and the need to even start thinking about revolution, is something I've been thinking about and talking about to my friends. I told my friends there's a need to do more than the kind of protest we've been doing. This is what I've been looking for."

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