Michele Spring-Moore: Arpaio still a threat during Trump era

Monday, June 19, 2017
Arpaio still a threat during Trump era

Apparently former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio is still desperate for attention and a little cash.

According to the Gazette’s coverage (“Second Amendment rally in Belchertown draws ‘toughest sheriff,’ gun rights activists,” June 19), his appearance at the Swift River Sportsman’s Club in Belchertown on June 17 brought in $5,000 to $7,500 from 200 to 300 people eager to meet the man who was sued by the U.S. Justice Department for a litany of civil rights violations against Latinos.

If the speakers and attendees at the Belchertown club’s rally dislike being considered racist, perhaps for their next event they might invite a keynote speaker who wasn’t infamous for spending more than a decade racially profiling and arresting 50,000 Latinos/Latinas for misdemeanors and forcing them to live in tent prisons in the desert. Arpaio’s deputies detained not only undocumented immigrants, but also U.S. citizens and immigrants with visas. According to the federal lawsuit, they publicly referred to Mexican immigrants as “wetbacks” and with other phrases using obscenities, forced women prisoners to lie in their own menstrual blood, kept all prisoners outside where temperatures rose to more than 130 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, and instituted rock-breaking manual labor and chain gangs as punishment for petty crimes – but more for Arpaio’s public show.

Now that the voters of Maricopa County have removed Arpaio from office, he appears to be more of a strange clown than a danger. As the Gazette reported, he still believes that former president Barack Obama’s birth certificate was “forged.”

Arpaio’s bragging to the media about saving money by keeping prisoners outdoors and feeding them two meals a day was ultimately undermined when Maricopa County had to raise property taxes to pay tens of millions of dollars in legal expenses he’d incurred, including settlements to detainees who sued over violations of their civil rights.

But this 85-year-old extremist blowhard is still a threat in the era of Donald Trump in the White House, in a country in which anyone can easily obtain guns. White supremacists and others with mental health problems are declaring open season on people of color and those who look to them like “outsiders.”

When a young white man can shoot nine black worshipers to death in their church, when women wearing hijab can be beaten to death with baseball bats and their male defenders stabbed to death in the United States, so-called leaders like Joe Arpaio need to be, at the very least, made unwelcome in Massachusetts and everywhere.

Michele Spring-Moore