Thursday, July 29, 2010

Arizona immigration law protesters arrested after blocking street

Hundreds of activists marched on downtown Phoenix in protest of Senate Bill 1070 Thursday, participating in mass acts of civil disobedience, prayer vigils and other rallies.

Dozens were arrested at various locations, including members of the media who were covering the event.

The protests were peaceful, but disruptive. Opponents of the tough new immigration law blocked Washington Street near Phoenix City Hall for nearly an hour Thursday morning, snarling traffic and light-rail service.

At least two dozen were arrested at that location, after linking arms and lying down in the street, said Sgt. Tommy Thompson, a spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department.

They were charged with obstructing a public thoroughfare, which is a misdemeanor, Thompson said.

By noon, the bulk of the activity was centered on the 4th Avenue Jail, a primary booking location for felony arrests in Maricopa County.

Several hundred people had converged on that location, and six people were arrested after chaining themselves to the building; about 10 others were taken into custody by deputies dressed in riot gear after they blocked the jail's driveway and refused to move.

In total, about 30 people were arrested for blocking a public thoroughfare, including some members of the press. Law enforcement officials said the members of the media were given the same warning as the activists before being taken into custody.

Protesters at the jail blocked the entrance at 3rd Avenue and Madison, chanting, "No Justice, no peace, no racist police," and "Arrest Arpaio, not the people." At least one squad car from Goodyear turned a way and had to find a different entrance. "We're not trying to get arrested, we are trying to make a point," said Ruben Lucio, 21, of Phoenix. Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Phoenix, said she came to the jail because "I am standing for human rights. Not one more person, not one more mother, not one more grandfather will be taken from their family."

Even though a federal judge on Wednesday blocked key provisions of the state's tough new immigration law, rallies, protests, prayer vigils and acts of civil disobedience were held throughout the morning.

The provisions of the law that were not blocked took effect at 12:01 a.m.; Gov. Jan Brewer's legal team is expected to file an expedited appeal of the judge's order with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals within the hour.

Thursday morning's protests started quietly with an early morning prayer vigil and march from the state Capitol to the Trinity Cathedral in downtown Phoenix. Only about 100 people attended that demonstration, but the protestors have steadily picked up steam since then.

About 400 people attended the service at the Trinity Cathedral, and then demonstrators marched toward the federal courthouse. Three people, including former state legislator and activist Alfredo Gutierrez were arrested there around 8:30 a.m.

The other individuals who were taken into custody identified themselves as Dan O'Neal and Doris Perez.

"The injunction did not go far enough," O'Neal moments before getting arrested. "This movement is about more than 1070."

After that, several activist groups converged on Sheriff Joe Arpaio's offices near the Wells Fargo building in downtown Phoenix. Arpaio, who planned one of his immigration sweeps Thursday, was one of the primary targets of demonstrators' ire.

The groups that joined up outside his offices eventually led to the multiple arrests on Washington Street.

From there, the activists moved on to the 4th Avenue Jail, where where the scene grew increasingly rowdy and intense before organizers started calming protestors down and moving them away. One protestor chained himself to what appeared to be an emergency exit, saying Wednesday's court ruling didn't go far enough. "It's a small victory," said Devin Fleenor, of Phoenix. "We need to have a lot more change, than just a temporary injunction on SB 1070."

At about 12:30 p.m., Sheriff Joe Arpaio re-deployed a dozen deputies armed in riot gear to the location.

The deputies were supposed to be part of a crime sweep operation planned for early afternoon. The sweep has now been postponed until at least 4 p.m.

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