By Valeria Fernández - Phoenix, Arizona
Disturbing video of armed neo-Nazi supporters of Sheriff Joe Arpaio trying to incite violence during a peaceful protest against alleged brutality in Maricopa County jails has human and civil-rights groups worried.
(Produced by AJ Alexander.)
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) criticized Arpaio for not condemning the actions of his supporters and instead getting his picture taken with the neo-Nazis.
On Saturday, May 2nd close to 3,000 people marched for six miles to protest the Sheriff's alleged abuses of civil rights inside and outside his jails as part of his crackdown on illegal immigration.
The march was inspired by the cases of several women who reported intimidation and brutality by jail guards. Hundreds of prisoners reportedly started a hunger strike to denounce jail conditions and treatment.
The protest ended outside the Durango jail complex where the marchers were met with a handful of neo-Nazis stepping on the Mexican flag, doing the Nazi "Sieg Heil" salute and yelling racial slurs. Some observers said that the heavy presence of Phoenix police, who are not controlled by the Sheriff's Office, was what kept violence from erupting.
Photos and videos circulating on white-supremacist web pages show the Sheriff getting his picture taken with them. J.T Ready, one of the neo-Nazis that stepped on the Mexican flag compared the actions of Arpaio to those of Adolph Hitler, saying the latter was his "hero."
"The hate and bigotry of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his supporters must be exposed, confronted and overcome", said Pablo Alvarado, director of NDLON. "What is happening in Maricopa County is nothing short of a human rights crisis on United States soil".
During a press conference outside the jail complex on Saturday, Arpaio complained that the protesters caused him to have to put extra security in the jail. When asked whether or not he was concerned about attracting support from neo-Nazis, he dodged the question, replying: "I arrest anyone who breaks the law."
Later his office issued a statement saying that he had no control over who shows up at these protests.
"Any time that white supremacists groups and other groups like that support Sheriff Arpaio, it speaks for itself," said Bertha Lewis, executive director of ACORN. "They know one of their own. In fact, he actually is very proud to be associated with the KKK," [Ku Klux Klan] she added.
Lewis comment was in reference to a remark made by Arpaio on CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight" in 2007. He was asked to respond to critics who question his tactics in enforcing illegal immigration. "Well, you know, they call you KKK. They did me. I think it's an honor, right? It means we're doing something," Arpaio said, according to transcripts of the show.
The local Anti-Defamation League has warned that the current negative atmosphere against undocumented immigrants in the state, fed by local politicians like Arpaio, is attracting hate groups to Arizona.
In the past, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon criticized Arpaio for conducting immigration raids at the request of individuals related to white supremacist groups.
Other videos of the neo-Nazis:
The Association: Joe Arpaio and Neo-Nazi friendship exposed!
(Produced by Carlos Garcia. This video ends with footage of Arpaio talking with "white nationalist" demonstrators.)
Mexican vs Neo-nazi white minutemen Sheriff Arpaio supporters
(Produced by Naui Ocelotl Huitzilopochtili.)