Border Journey – Vigil at the Tent City jail
Three men dressed in camouflage and armed with assault rifles were watching us as we stepped off the bus to protest sheriff Joe Arpaio’s tent city jail in Phoenix on June 23.
Three men dressed in camouflage and armed with assault rifles were watching us as we stepped off the bus to protest sheriff Joe Arpaio’s tent city jail in Phoenix on June 23. Sheriff agents on horseback and with an ATV, patrol car, and SUV were posted just down the street. They weren’t concerned about the armed civilians but they did video people who walked by porting “Standing on the Side of Love” placards.
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) was holding its general assembly in Phoenix and more than 3,000 people participated in the candlelight vigil outside the jail. Peter Morales, UUA president, was given a tour of the jail by Arpaio and he said it seemed like “what you’d see in a fascist country.” Geoffrey Black, president of the United Church of Christ, called it “a national disgrace.”
We all chanted “Close it down!” with enough force to be heard inside the jail. The inmates are kept in tents where they have to endure the heat of summer and the cold of winter. The temperature reached 106 degrees that day and was still over 100 at 9 P.M. Arpaio calls himself the “toughest sheriff in America.”
The sheriff has ordered sweeps of Latino neighborhoods to round up people suspected of being unauthorized immigrants. A Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation concluded that Arpaio oversaw the worst pattern of racial profiling by a law enforcement agency in U.S. history. The sheriff and his commanders created a culture of abusing the rights of Latinos. The DOJ filed a lawsuit against Arpaio last month because of “unlawful discriminatory police conduct directed at Latinos.”
Standing on the Side of Love is a campaign sponsored by the UUA to “harness love’s power to stop oppression.” The day after the UUA assembly ended, the Supreme Court upheld the clause of Arizona’s law SB1070 that requires police to check the immigration status of people they stop and suspect are unauthorized immigrants. UUA moderator Gini Courter said, “It violates our faith to comply with SB1070 and we are called to resist the mass detention and deportation of immigrants.”
In love and solidarity,
Scott Nicholson, a member of University Congregational UCC in Missoula, Montana, serves with BorderLinks in Nogales, Mexico as a volunteer at the Community Center.