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Mar 31, 18

Prescott, AZ: Students Shut Down Joe Arpaio Campaign Event, Oath Keepers Militia Threatens “Citizen’s Arrest”

The following report was sent to us by student organizers and details a disruption of a Joe Arpaio event in Prescott, Arizona. Militia members of the Oath Keepers were armed and on hand to protect the former Sheriff. 

Prescott, AZ – On Friday March 30th, student and community organizers from Prescott, Arizona gathered together at the Prescott Adult Center at 5 pm in opposition to the appearance of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. After losing his re-election for sheriff of Maricopa County in 2016, Arpaio is now vying for a seat on the U.S. Senate. He was hosted by Arizona representatives David Stringer and Noel Campbell for what they claimed was a town hall style campaign event.

As he arrived to the event, Arpaio was met with protesters holding signs and chanting. Before the doors opened, a number of protesters wearing orange, handcuffed with zip ties fell to the ground in a die-in protest in front of Arpaio. Two protesters held a sign with a direct quote from him stating “I already have a concentration camp its called Tent City.” Flustered, he replied “My words? I said that one time, joking. You know what? If you want it to be, it’s okay with me. It’s a concentration camp, what do you want it to be, the Hilton Hotel?”

A lead organizer for the die-in, Becca Bramwell, then interrupted his rambling monologue with a statement listing off a number of names of those who lost their lives in Tent City, who were then repeated by the demonstration participants.

“This was a minimal list of names of people who died in Joe Arpaio’s prisons and jails. These people died under negligent circumstances in these places. I asked him if he recognized any of these names. He asked where I had gotten them, I replied I had gotten them from the CDC database. He then said something about how they had probably killed themselves. I replied quoting the circumstances of Charles Agster’s death, a thirty-three year old mentally handicapped man who died in the county jail in 2001, three days after being forced into a restraint chair, wearing a spit hood. We are in solidarity with all of the victims of Maricopa County, including inmates, families, and community members who have suffered under Joe Arpaio’s unconstitutional policies,” Bramwell recounts.

After this initial demonstration, Arpaio retreated inside, passing sidewalk chalk that read “Fascist meeting today 3/30/18.” Inside, Representative Stringer and Campbell invited him to the stage, where he bragged about his accomplishments as Sheriff for a dozen or so minutes. His speech mentioned his pride of the success of Tent City, the notorious pink underwear his inmates would wear, and the millions detained under his reign. The room was not full; his supporters made up only about half the audience, the rest were there in protest.

At 6:55 PM, phone alarms went off simultaneously throughout the conference hall, and a large portion of protesters stood up and started chanting “say it loud, say it clear, racist scum not welcome here.” Arpaio could not be heard over the protesters, and after a number of minutes attempting to regain control of the audience, he came down from the stage and exited the room.

“Moments after the phone alarms started ringing, we rose and started yelling. “Oathkeepers” and Arpaio’s supporters looked at us in shock, seemingly frozen. We kept chanting for around five minutes until Arpaio finally left the stage. It felt very empowering to be able to disempower him to the point of leaving his platform and to get in this guy’s face, this person who’s done so many horrendous, unspeakable things to people, and to directly confront him about it.”

Protesters were threatened by so-called “Oath Keepers” to vacate the premises. An organizer explained, “They kept threatening citizen’s arrest. They were using their uniforms, the fact that they were armed, and the threat of arrest us to intimidate us. Frazzled and unsure of how to respond to our display of power, they attempted to encircle us and physically push us out. We didn’t stop chanting as we walked out. We did what we came to do.”

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