Ariz. Activists Rally For Votes Against Sheriff Arpaio | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Ariz. Activists Rally For Votes Against Sheriff Arpaio

Play associated audio

Testimony is scheduled to end Thursday in the racial-profiling suit against Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The sheriff faces a class-action civil suit on behalf of Latino citizens and legal residents in Maricopa County.

The plaintiffs say deputies stopped and detained them because of the color of their skin. As lawyers fight Arpaio in the courtroom, activists outside are using the trial as a rallying point against the sheriff in his upcoming election.

'Adios Arpaio'

Tomas Robles wears a white T-Shirt with a black and yellow rectangle on the front — kind of like a road sign.

"It's a shadow figurine of, basically, Joe Arpaio on his horse, running away. Because we're coming for him, and we're going to show him that we have power, and he can no longer attack our community," he says.

Above the drawing are the words "Adios Arpaio," the slogan for the campaign to register Latino voters. Robles is the campaign's field director.

About 100 people gathered in the blazing heat in front of the federal courthouse in Phoenix on Wednesday to announce more than 11,000 new Latino voters. Robles says volunteers are going door-to-door and to places where Hispanics shop, with a not-terribly-subtle pitch.

"The first thing we ask people is, 'How do you feel about Arpaio?' And if we hear that they're not for the sheriff, we register them to vote," he says.

The idea is to deny the sheriff a sixth term in office in November, even as he faces legal pressure in this civil trial and in another lawsuit brought by the Justice Department.

Swept Up In Coverage

It's common wisdom that most Latinos in Maricopa County know someone who has been stopped by sheriff's deputies in crime-suppression sweeps or employer raids. If they don't know someone personally, they've certainly heard the stories.

"It has widespread coverage," says Valeria Fernandez, a freelance reporter for CNN-Espanol and La Opinion newspaper.

Like other media, Spanish-language outlets have been covering Arpaio since he began his illegal immigration raids five years ago. But Fernandez says the Spanish-language media have often gone a step further, finding and interviewing those stopped in the raids.

"I think it's gotten contagious, because we're starting to see more and more stories in the mainstream media that have to do with the protagonists, you know — the people that are arrested, who they are," she says.

Those are some of the same people who brought the current racial-profiling lawsuit. Over the past few days, Arpaio's defense attorneys have been presenting deputies who dispute the plaintiff's claims that they were stopped because their skin is brown.

Arpaio Supporters Stand Strong

The plaintiffs have to prove systematic racial profiling in the Sheriff's Office before federal Judge Murray Snow will order the department to change its policies. That's not to say that Arpaio will suffer politically even if he loses the trial.

Bill Hart, policy analyst for the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University, says the sheriff's supporters will stick by him regardless.

"Arpaio is an example of somebody who has a very loyal following, and they're older people, they're very organized and they all vote," he says.

Republican Arpaio has no challengers in the primary this month. He's expected to face a Democrat and an independent in November. Arpaio's supporters are largely Republican and white. Right now, at least, they are the largest voting bloc in Maricopa County.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


Fresh Air Weekend: Toni Morrison, Ross Macdonald's Crime Fiction, Will Forte

Nobel laureate Morrison reflects on her life and her regrets; Maureen Corrigan reviews a reissue of four of Macdonald's 1950s novels; SNL alum Forte discusses comedy and Bruce Dern's acting advice.

PepsiCo Swaps Diet Drink's Aspartame For Other Artificial Sweeteners

The company says Diet Pepsi consumers are concerned about aspartame. But the Food and Drug Administration has long affirmed that the sweetener is safe in amounts commonly used by beverage companies.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy On Gun Control, Vaccines And Science

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy was officially sworn in this week. His confirmation was held up for more than a year because of comments he made about gun violence. Murthy talks with NPR's Scott Simon.

As Health Apps Hop On The Apple Watch, Privacy Will Be Key

The notion of receiving nutrition advice from artificial intelligence on your wrist may seem like science fiction. But health developers are betting this kind of behavior will become the norm.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.