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10,000+ MARCH AGAINST JOE ARPAIO IN PHOENIX
Police unleash pepper gas on non-violent protesters; 5 arrested
More than 10,000 demonstrators came out on January 16 to protest against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his repression of unauthorized immigrants. In the latest and largest in a series of protests against Sheriff Joe, demonstrators marched to MCSO's "tent city", an urban concentration camp where inmates, many arrested on immigration charges, are held 24-7 in the open air.
While marchers focused on Arpaio's 287g arrangement with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement and his high-profile immigration raids, other participants questioned the focus on immigration alone, given the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office's role in forclosure evictions, and also that the Phoenix Police Department turned over more unauthorized migrants to ICE in fiscal year 2009 than did Arpaio's sheriff's department.
Toward the end of the day, police attacked marchers, indiscriminately deploying pepper gas in an area that included a number of young children and families. In addition to street medics, EMTs were called to provide emergency care to at least three individuals, including an infant and young child. Five individuals were singled out for arrest and are being charged with aggravated assault of a police officer. In a news story on the march, the Arizona Republic repeated police statements that demonstrators attacked a police horse with metal poles, despite such allegations contradicting numerous eye-witness accounts, including the following post to Arizona Indymedia:
"Unprovoked, a female officer on horseback (who later covered her name on her uniform) charged her horse headlong into the march, colliding with several people and in the process almost running over at least one child in a stroller. After attacking families and protesters, she then whipped out her pepper spray and let loose on the whole crowd, who fled the noxious spew. In the process, children were blasted with pepper spray. After that, other Phoenix PD officers stormed the crowd, violently attacking marchers, dragging several to the ground and further deploying their chemical weapons from all directions in an attempt to justify their their aggression by nabbing a few people. Dozens were so affected that they were soaked in chemicals, having to strip off clothes to stop the burning."
Phoenix PD attack marchers, mace children at Arpaio protest
by a Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010 at 6:34 PM
We couldn't agree with Sal Reza more when he says, "There was provocation by some groups who came here for their own purpose to disrupt a peaceful march." We know he isn't talking about us, because he invited members of the Diné, O'odham, anarchist/anti-authoritarian bloc on stage to speak at the rally at Falcon Park.
So, who is the outside faction Sal's talking about? In our opinion it must be the Phoenix Police. Unprovoked, a female officer on horseback (who later covered her name on her uniform) charged her horse headlong into the march, colliding with several people and in the process almost running over at least one child in a stroller. After attacking families and protesters, she then whipped out her pepper spray and let loose on the whole crowd, who fled the noxious spew. In the process, children were blasted with pepper spray.
After that, other Phoenix PD officers stormed the crowd, violently attacking marchers, dragging several to the ground and further deploying their chemical weapons from all directions in an attempt to justify their aggression by nabbing a few people. Dozens were so affected that they were soaked in chemicals, having to strip off clothes to stop the burning. Street medics (not Phoenix Fire Department) and other protesters came to each others' aid. At the end of the melee, out of the more than a hundred that marched together, four of our comrades were in chains and countless others stood bleeding, bruised and momentarily stunned.
Still, shaking it off, we rallied, facing down the cops, until eventually they withdrew. We celebrated and took turns speaking out about what it's like to be under attack by a system that values property and power over people.
Indeed, during the entire march the Phoenix police had been provoking marchers. Riding bikes and golf carts into people. Pushing and shoving. For what? To keep one northbound lane open? Rather than assaulting people expressing their legitimate desires to see an end to oppression, why not shut down the street? Cops do traffic control all the time. What's wrong with PPD? Why, for instance, is it somehow possible for Tempe PD to shut down Tempe streets tomorrow for the corporate schlock that is "PF Chang's Rock n' Roll Marathon," but not for PPD to close off a few streets so that people can assemble without threat of attack? Truly a backwards system indeed!
The police have so far put forward several different explanations for what happened, all of which contradict each other. On one channel they say that they were breaking up a fight. On another they say that people were throwing bottles. And on and on. What'll it be in five minutes, we wonder? The contradictory stories ought to be your first clue that what they're claiming happened didn't in fact happen. No surprise that the media swallowed it. But if we know they're lying, we have to wonder why anyone else would defend their actions?
Did people fight back against the police assault. We don't know because our eyes were full of pepper spray, but we wouldn't begrudge them if they did. To be charged into by a twelve hundred pound horse, while attacked by thugs using chemical weapons necessarily evokes the instinct to fight back, especially when your enemy is so vile as to assault children. Police demand the impossible from people. They expect you to allow them to attack you while at the same time demanding that you suppress you gut, human tendency to defend yourself. There is nothing "peaceful" in that relationship. That sort of power relation is one that condemns those who resist while exonerating the violence of those from above. It reflects the current distribution of power -- a distribution we want to change drastically. This is as unnatural as fighting power without taking action. Movements, like people, have a right to self-defense. For us, that has to be in the form of direct action and civil disobedience against the system. It must be made not to work unless our demands are met. No more mediation through shady politicians. No more appealing to power through moral arguments. We can take our futures into our own hands, directly.
Still, we're not surprised that the police attacked. While it seems the leaders of the movement are eager to make excuses for police who attack children, we know that what we saw today is but a glimpse of what the cops do everyday. We see it with our own eyes. They are the outside, alien force that first and foremost defends white supremacy and capitalism. How can someone say they are organizing a "peaceful march" when they work with such sadists? Naturally they were going to attack the march eventually, especially considering the militaristic fashion in which they deployed. Phoenix PD deports more migrants than Sheriff Joe and yet we are told that we ought to give them a pass so that we can focus on that clown Arpaio? We saw today just how foolish that strategy is.
In our eyes, this is but a symptom of the failure of the strategy being pursued by the movement as it is. White supremacy in Arizona goes far beyond one ancient sheriff in one county. Ballot measures attacking people of color will almost certainly pass in Arizona yet again this year with 70 or 80 percent margins. Is this Sheriff Joe's fault? Obviously not. But marches against Joe won't stop that.
We need a broader movement with a critique beyond Joe so that we can challenge the whole problem -- one that stretches from Tohono O'odham land down south to the land of the Diné up north. And everywhere in between. And we need to break from this mode of organizing that can only deliver more oppression and more violence down on our heads. No more politicians. No more working with cops. Look what it brings.
This is why we supported the call for the Diné, O'odham, anarchist/anti-authoritarian bloc. For someone to say now when it is inconvenient that we are an outside force is to replicate the marginalization that for centuries has dominated the discourse around land and movement in this region. But PCWC's native comrades didn't come from outside. They were always here. And we stand with them.
Submitted by anon on Sun, 2010-01-17 01:49.
"Well, here's my perspective (for what it's worth since I got "pepper sprayed" immediately and didn't see a whole lot afterwards):
From the convergence point, the liberal-orginized section of the march took off first, which were most of the people. I guess our contingent was somewhat towards the back of the march. Mile-to-mile the cops consistently antagonized the anarchist/Dine/O'odham contingent through various means (shoving, picking up barracades and bikes and ramming them into us, threats including one sad "I could take off the gun and still kick your ass", etc.). This was happening through the first two thirds of the march - of course there were some folks that didn't passively acccept the taunting, but they didn't make it any worse either. The basis of the taunting revolved around the police attempts to limit the march to one side of a two-way road ...or further if they could, while also blocking traffic both ways (as usual) - thus, giving up their pretext to prevent the march from filling the entire width of the street.
There is some Phoenix, anti-Arpio march history that ties in with this which I must regress about first. The past marches have been very complacent and "peaceful", though with huge numbers turning out, almost no substantial issues echoing into society at large. The last march against Arpio a year ago was a sort of breaking point for the anarchists and liberals in tactics. The anarchist bloc was at the front of that march and decided to take the streets, against the pushing, orders, and threats of the liberal protest organizers. The rest of the march followed into the streets and then the police conceeded. After that march, with that lovely sort of rat-politician type of deception certain "activist leaders" like to use, the liberal organizers who had been attempting to keep the march on the side-walks took credit for "taking the streets" in various media coverage. So, in short... a very sharp antagonism exists in Phx between anarchists and liberal organizers: the former doing the usual (taking the street, trying to widen the scope of the issues being raised, etc.) and the latter also doing their usual (using scare tactics and other forms of ostracism to attempt building a negative image of anarchists).
So, back to this march! Once again, the liberal organization's "peace keepers" were on the side lines with police, visibly perplexed by their situation: taking orders from cops, being told how to keep the anarchists in line who "if it wasn't for those guys we wouldn't need to even be here" - police quote, etc. This time though, as can be seen in the liberal organizer's advertising of the event, the intention to take the streets was set out from the start. We were instantly able to take half of the street, the liberal organizers felt that was 'victory enough' for them. So... eventually, after trying to take the entire street for two miles, we came to one of the jails and both sides of the street were being guarded by riot police. It is at this juncture when the officer on the horse began to charge into the crowd(which was a new 'vehicle' addition shortly before this juncture). At the same time, this is also the point where the march was finally able to fill the entire street.
To simplify a very chaotic situation, it seemed like the officer on the horse decided to charge into the crowd because the police line was broken and the march widened. The reason why I need to speculate on this is that the whole incident seemed very orchastrated for reasons mentioned above (the increased police force at that juncture, the shift from bikes to horses, the use of a golf cart to ram into protesters, and much else). Otherwise, I didn't see any provocations at all when this officer charged in - no bottles, no rocks, no whatever other nonsense comes up next. While the horse charge was happening, other officers rushed in to attempt arrests. These two things coincided and make it very unclear what exactly happened. People were literally being trampled over by the horse, other officers were attempting to make arrests, and then came the massive doses of some heavy-duty pepper spray (not just from the cop on the horse, but also from other officers - which I got my taste of from).
After that - all I know personally is that I made my way away from the police attacks and was aided to a calm location to recieve medical treatment. I know one thing for sure, that water didn't fucking help and the medics did an amazing job using sufficient stuff to wash out my eyes. I know for a fact that those who were arrested did not do the things which have been reported in the media, even though those things may/may not have happened. Aside from that, after the arrests were made, the police retreated from that location and our bloc apparently held some sort of rally. The majority of liberal demonstrators were not around for the confrontation, though a few stayed out of curiosity and others because they were simply more towards the back of the march. In other words - they took flight and that is where your media stories will fill you in on the rest.
More information will come out about this after tonight, I am staying home so I was able to add this comment here to try and clear some initial confusions.
January 16, 2010