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Racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio invades City Hall, terrorizes janitors

Published Oct 31, 2008 8:44 PM

At approximately 2 a.m. on the morning of Oct. 16, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio unleashed a fully armed, combat-ready, 60-person contingent of SWAT team personnel and volunteer posse on the Mesa, Ariz., City Hall. Armed with semi-automatic weapons and attack dogs, the strike team descended on the city’s municipal complex.

Guadalupe, Ariz., protest, April 3.

What dire emergency was Sheriff Arpaio responding to? Was the complex under attack? Were there bomb threats or threats of violence? Perhaps the mayor was being held hostage and a ransom being demanded?

Nothing so sinister was underway. Inside the complex were contracted janitorial workers, mostly people of color, who were diligently performing their usual low-paid tasks of mopping floors and emptying trash cans. This was the activity that warranted a full-scale assault by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and Posse.

The attack, which took place without the knowledge of any Mesa City official, was another in the long list of racist sweeps against Arizona’s [email protected] community. For months prior to this particular terrorist attack, Arpaio, his deputies and his volunteer posse have been sweeping through [email protected] neighborhoods, stopping people, asking for identification and arresting those who failed to produce any. In April Arpaio invaded the small [email protected] town of Guadalupe, Ariz., where he was met with protests from both Mayor Rebecca Jimenez and the town’s population.

Although most states have repealed the use of a sheriff’s posse, Arizona still allows a county sheriff to “conscript any able-bodied male eighteen or older to assist him in keeping the peace or to pursue and arrest a felon.” (Wikipedia) The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Posse is an all-volunteer, racist militia trained by the sheriff’s office to participate in community sweeps and arrests that target [email protected] areas. Posse members are Arpaio’s personal goon squad whom he arms and directs against the [email protected] community.

On Oct. 22 a federal judge ruled that Arpaio’s jails violate the U.S. Constitution and ordered the sheriff to provide decent food, health care and sanitary conditions to those awaiting trial. (New York Times, Oct. 23) Maricopa County has paid out $43 million in private lawsuits against Arpaio.

Arpaio is running for a fifth term as sheriff of Maricopa County. If elected, “Sheriff Joe” plans to continue his policies, build his posse and encourage other racist groups like the Minutemen. He told Lou Dobbs in an interview that “being called the Ku Klux Klan is an honor.”

Arpaio may win the election and attempt to continue his war against [email protected], but many people have had enough and are organizing to fight back. The slogan “Sheriff Joe has got to go!” is being heard more and more. The attempt to divide people and scapegoat [email protected] will not work, as the unfolding economic crisis makes clear that the problem isn’t documented versus undocumented or white workers versus people of color.

The problem is the capitalist system, which is attempting to pit worker against worker in a futile attempt to maintain its grip. Along with Sheriff Joe, the people are starting to realize that “Capitalism has got to go!”