Arrests in Phoenix

Community Organizing Ideas and Issues

Arrests in Phoenix
December 18, 2008
                Antigua, Guatemala                       Sitting on the edge of the immigration strategy session in Washington on Tuesday, I was surprised when an arm lock gripped by neck from behind until I felt a kiss on my cheek and realized it was Carmen Arias, one of the great leaders of ACORN in Phoenix, Arizona, who I had worked with for years.  At the lunch break she told me that the day before, Monica Sanschafer, the head organizer of Arizona ACORN, and an ACORN member had been arrested for once again asking for accountability over the controversial and divisive vigilante tactics of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. 
                Arrests as a civil disobedience tactic are not common in organizing and protest these days, but I was not surprised to hear about the events in Phoenix.  Monica Sanschafer is one of the most talented and up and coming organizers in the ranks of the ACORN field staff, and she has a particular sensitivity to the civil rights aspects of her members’ struggles and the impact on the Phoenix community.  I have heard her talk passionately about how these issues are roiling the neighborhoods where Phoenix ACORN groups toil in the vineyards.   For Monica to be arrested twice in one week only says two things to me.  One that ACORN members were past the point of frustration and tactical response, and, two, that like any organizer, she could not let the members be arrested alone.
                I hope as the Times reports that these actions in fact do put some pressure on the situation for resolution.  What the Times gets wrong is that this is an anti-Arpaio set of actions.  All of this activity has been appropriately directed at securing some accountability and supervision over Arpaio.  The ad hoc Maricopa organization composed of many organizations has been trying to get the County officials to finally require some accountability here.  This should be natural for elected officials, but instead they continue to offer a blank check to Arpaio’s well documented abuses in office. 
The frustration of refusing to be heard and heeded is obviously producing a tactical box canyon.   Hopefully this will allow a path to be found to finally get Arpaio under control.

Four Arrests Raise Tension in Dispute Over Sheriff


Published: December 17, 2008

PHOENIX — The authorities arrested four people Wednesday at a meeting of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, a development that heightened months of tension between county officials and a vocal group of activists who oppose Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Rick Scibelli Jr. for The New York Times
Joe Arpaio, sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., is a target of activists who have engaged in a long campaign to restrict him.
Those arrested, during the public comment part of the meeting, had been warned by the board earlier that they were being disruptive with their applause for speakers critical of the sheriff.
Finally, after standing and applauding another such speaker for 20 seconds, they were seized by sheriff’s deputies and county security agents. All were charged with suspicion of disorderly conduct and trespassing, said Lt. Brian Lee, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office.
One of the four accused is Jason Odhner, who was identified by the director of the anti-Arpaio group Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability as a member of the organization. The three others are Joel Nelson, Monica Sanschafer and Kristy Theilen, who all belong to Acorn, the activist group whose members have frequently worked alongside the Maricopa Citizens organization in an anti-Arpaio campaign.
The groups want the Board of Supervisors to have greater oversight of Sheriff Arpaio, whose get-tough tactics have gained him nationwide attention but who has been accused by critics of racial profiling and maintaining deplorable conditions at the county jails, among other things.
The crackdown at the meeting brought the tally of arrested anti-Arpaio activists to nine in the last three months. Four people affiliated with Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability, including Ms. Sanschafer and Ms. Theilen, were arrested Monday for refusing to leave the lobby outside the office of the chairman of the Board of Supervisors. And on Sept. 29, a co-founder of the Maricopa Citizens group was arrested outside a Board of Supervisors meeting on suspicion of trespassing on government property and disorderly conduct.
Sheriff Arpaio, who was not at Wednesday’s meeting, said the arrests there were justified.
“When you’re in a government building,” he said, “when you have a forum, when you’re trying to have proper decorum and they keep interfering, they violated the law.”

Monica Sandschafer