At least the protesters in Wisconsin have access to the Capitol.
When Republican State Senator Carolyn Allen decided not to run for another term after serving in the legislature 16 years, she gave this as her reason:
“I do not want to live in the police state that Russell Pearce, Joe Arpaio and Andy Thomas are spearheading.” Arizona Republic
Thankfully, County Attorney Thomas is out of the picture and under a DOJ investigation, along with Sheriff Arpaio. That leaves Senate President Russell Pearce to carry their nativist water. He appears to be doing a good job, as Senator Olivia Cajero Bedford observed during a Senate hearing on Tuesday:
“And what I see happening is sort of a dictator Senate President.” New Times
Some thought Senator Allen’s comment last year a bit tin-foily, and Senator Beford was reprimanded by the Committee Chair for her “dictator” statement Tuesday. But let’s look at the evidence:
The first week of the 2011 legislative session, the newly installed Senate President Russell Pearce decreed that it was okay for anyone to carry a weapon into the Capitol and legislative chambers, even though some people wondered where that authority resided. Now he believes he should be able to decide who can visit the state grounds, and there’s talk in the media of Pearce’s Capitol blacklist.
Senator Pearce maintains there is no blacklist. That’s interesting, since Senator David Schapira Tweeted on Friday:
His claim that “there is no ‘blacklist'” is flatly untrue. He admitted to me yesterday that there is.
Yesterday, then, Pearce issued a press release, explaining that he banned some demonstrators from the Capitol at the request of Senator Krysten Sinema: “Sen. Sinema told Senate security she feared for her safety.” That’s also interesting, since Stephen Lemons from New Times spoke with Sinema:
Sinema tells me that’s untrue, that she never told anyone that she “feared for her safety” regarding the protest by radio show host Carlos Galindo and other activists of her press conference. Nor did she ask the Capitol Police to arrest anyone.
Finally, Pearce maintained he banned several individuals because “it is my duty to protect our Members, staff and visiting public.” He said some of the protesters this week were “clapping loudly and even banging a drum.” Got that? One of his first decisions as Senate President was to allow people to carry guns into the Capitol and the legislative chambers. Guns are okay, clapping no.
Who was banned from the Capitol and why?
Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce has always been a Looney Tune character, especially after 2004 when his son Sean was shot by a Mexican and dad went on his anti-immigrant bender (Sean thankfully recovered). So, he’s been tweeting his “invasion of the brown people” dog whistle for a long time, and we used to just think of him like a crazy old uncle who still uses the N-word and asks you to pull his finger. Just ignore the gross bigot.
Now, though, Pearce is not only Senate President but de facto Governor, so it’s no longer possible to ignore the most powerful and vicious politician in the state. Indeed, the vice grip his cruel wingnuttery has on the legislature was on display earlier this week when the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a long list of racist and inhumane laws. That meeting gave birth to the blacklist.
Civil rights activist Sal Reza has fought his share of battles in the state’s war on immigration, many of them with Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Reza, who is a member of the human rights group Puenta, has a wrongful-arrest lawsuit pending against Arpaio and his deputies for an incident that occurred last July during the protests that followed Governor Brewer’s signing of SB 1070. So in the eyes of Arpaio and Pearce, Sal is a “known troublemaker.”
Reza joined protestors at the explosive Appropriations Committee hearing on Tuesday. Hundreds of people filled three Senate Chambers and surrounded the building to protest the anti-immigration bills being considered — all of which passed. For some reason Reza, who watched the proceedings from a chamber on TV, was the one accused of being “disruptive” because the roomful of protestors would not stop applauding. And for that he landed on Pearce’s blacklist.
Democratic Senator Steve Gallardo said Pearce clearly “singl[ed] out Reza” because no one else was backlisted from the Capitol for excessive clapping. New Times’ Stephen Lemons points out the idiocy of Pearce’s selective enforcement:
Why had Reza been banned in the first place? [Capitol Police Officer] Abril writes, “On 2-22-11 Reza was advised by DPS security that he was not allowed in the Senate building because he was being disruptive. This trespass order [came] from the Senate President.”
Reza was present for Tuesday’s marathon Appropriations Committee hearing, along with numerous other activists, watching the proceedings on a TV set in an overflow room. How could Reza be disruptive as he sat in front of a Television? After all, the activists were not even allowed into the hearing room. I know because I was there.
Unbeknownst to him, Reza was persona non grata at the State Capitol, so when he and Anayanse Garza showed up Thursday at the Senate chambers for a meeting with Senator Gallardo,
Police arrested immigration activist Salvador Reza on suspicion of trespassing Thursday after he refused to leave the state Senate, and another activist could face assault charges stemming from a suspected shoving match with an officer. Arizona Republic
New Times was at the Capitol yesterday, when Reza and Garza held a press conference:
Both alleged abuse at the hands of DPS Officer J. Gentry Burton and DPS Sergeant Jeff Trap, who collared them after warning Reza to leave, supposedly because he had been “banned” on the orders of state Senate President Russell Pearce. Reza said he was thrown up against the glass window of the building’s lobby “like a common criminal.”
Garza claimed she was dragged by her hair during her arrests. Garza had not been “banned,” like Reza. “They used violence against me,” stated the soft-spoken, 33 year-old woman.
At the press conference Senator Gallardo asked,
“Where does [Pearce] have the authority to ban someone?” … He referred to the state Senate rule book, and indicated there was nothing granting Pearce such powers. “We call on Pearce to give us a list of everyone banned,” he stated. “We need to know who’s on that list and why.”
Meanwhile, while all this crap transpired this week, radio host Carlos Galinda sat outside the Capitol with a big sign in uppercase letters that read:
RUSSELL PEARCE BANNED ME FOREVER FROM THE CAPITOL BUILDING FOR EXERCISING MY 1ST AMENDMENT RIGHTS! REMEMBER THE BILL OF RIGHTS?
Remember them? I doubt if Pearce ever heard of them, except maybe that second one. A comment from Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox provided a fitting end to the press conference:
“We have to remind the [Arizona] Senate … that we’re still a part of the United States of America.”
Last year, after the SB 1070 boycotts put a huge dent in Arizona’s vital tourism industry, the Governor appointed a commission to develop some image-saving strategies. At the time, one of their suggested slogans seemed laughable, especially if you were brown. Today it seems Kafkaesque:
Arizona — Experience the Freedom