Police unleash pepper gas on non-violent protesters; 5 arrested
More than 10,000 demonstrators came out on January 16 to protest against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his repression of unauthorized immigrants. In the latest and largest in a series of protests against Sheriff Joe, demonstrators marched to MCSO's "tent city", an urban concentration camp where inmates, many arrested on immigration charges, are held 24-7 in the open air.
While marchers focused on Arpaio's 287g arrangement with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement and his high-profile immigration raids, other participants questioned the focus on immigration alone, given the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office's role in forclosure evictions, and also that the Phoenix Police Department turned over more unauthorized migrants to ICE in fiscal year 2009 than did Arpaio's sheriff's department.
Toward the end of the day, police attacked marchers, indiscriminately deploying pepper gas in an area that included a number of young children and families. In addition to street medics, EMTs were called to provide emergency care to at least three individuals, including an infant and young child. Five individuals were singled out for arrest and are being charged with aggravated assault of a police officer. In a news story on the march, the Arizona Republic repeated police statements that demonstrators attacked a police horse with metal poles, despite such allegations contradicting numerous eye-witness accounts, including the following post to Arizona Indymedia:
"Unprovoked, a female officer on horseback (who later covered her name on her uniform) charged her horse headlong into the march, colliding with several people and in the process almost running over at least one child in a stroller. After attacking families and protesters, she then whipped out her pepper spray and let loose on the whole crowd, who fled the noxious spew. In the process, children were blasted with pepper spray. After that, other Phoenix PD officers stormed the crowd, violently attacking marchers, dragging several to the ground and further deploying their chemical weapons from all directions in an attempt to justify their their aggression by nabbing a few people. Dozens were so affected that they were soaked in chemicals, having to strip off clothes to stop the burning."
For more coverage, see: Phoenix PD attack marchers, mace children at Arpaio protest