Monday, August 02, 2010

29 Unitarian Universalists arrested in protest against Arizona's SB 1070

Photo: Mar Cardenas of San Diego, granddaughter of Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas

See all blog posts re Arizona SB 1070.

29 UUs arrested in Phoenix protest
Unitarian Universalists demonstrate against Arizona's SB 1070
By Donald E. Skinner

Twenty-nine Unitarian Universalists, including eight ministers, were arrested in Phoenix, Ariz., for acts of civil disobedience protesting Arizona's strict anti-illegal immigration law.

Among those arrested were Unitarian Universalist Association President Peter Morales and the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, minister of the UU Congregation of Phoenix. They were among 150 UUs, many from out of state, who came to Phoenix for actions in support of immigrant families on Thursday, July 29, the day Senate Bill 1070 went into effect. Opponents of SB1070 say it encourages racial profiling by police, although a federal judge issued an injunction July 28 that blocked several controversial provisions of the law.

UUs were among hundreds of people who swarmed into downtown streets, blocking traffic at midday in the vicinity of the Fourth Avenue Jail and the offices of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio, who calls himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” is a strong supporter of anti-immigrant legislation, launching workplace raids and authorizing the arrest and deportation of thousands of undocumented people...

UUs were acting in support of local immigrant groups, including Puente and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. In all, more than 80 people were arrested Thursday...

Phoenix police and sheriff’s deputies allowed the blockades to go on for one to two hours before arresting those who refused to move. Arrests began around noon on Thursday; prisoners were released overnight or Friday morning. Court appearances were set for some in mid-August. Most were charged with obstructing a public roadway and with failure to obey police, both misdemeanors...

The nearly two-hour service at the cathedral included Roman Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal, Muslim, Jewish, Unitarian Universalist, and nondenominational faith group representatives.

...Taudte was indeed arrested Thursday when she sat down in the street and refused to move. After her release Friday afternoon she called her experience “life changing.” She said she plans to go back to Florida and challenge her congregation to get even more active than it has been on immigration issues.

The Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo, minister of the UU Church of Marblehead, Mass., and president of UU Allies for Racial Equity, was arrested at the county jail with Morales and Frederick-Gray. The experience was “physically frightening,” she said. “The experience validated much of what I understand about white privilege and racism.” She said that while she experienced some roughness during the arrest and the jail experience was harsh, fellow inmates of color were treated far worse.

Held overnight in a cell with as many as 30 other women, von Zirpolo said the group bonded, even those people who had been arrested for other issues. “It was an unintended consequence of their strategy to disrupt our sleep by moving us around. Each time, we would share names and origins. We sang together, held those who needed to cry, demanded medical attention for our sisters in need, and most importantly, listened to each others stories. We made community.”

The Rev. Gregory Scott Ward, minister of the UU Church of the Monterey Peninsula in Carmel, Calif., said being in jail changed him. “I no longer think I’m different from other people. I was surprised by how quickly one’s humanity can be taken away when wearing prison stripes and the pink socks and pink underwear they make you wear. And how that humanity is restored when you find out that people are waiting for you when you come out.”

UUs who had not been arrested held a late evening candlelight vigil outside the jail Thursday night, bringing a guitar and flute and singing songs in Spanish and English. A few people remained all night, to be there when fellow UUs were released from jail.

Unitarian Universalists were the most visible religious group in Phoenix. Many wore the yellow T-shirts of the UUA’s Standing on the Side of Love campaign. UUA Moderator Gini Courter said, “On the street we were clearly identifiable as religious people. We lived our faith in a very public way. People were coming up to us and thanking us for being there.” ...

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