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Protesters Face Trial on One-Year Anniversary of Arizona's Anti-Immigrant Law

Among those facing misdemeanor civil disobedience charges is Rev. Peter Morales, who discusses why he was arrested and the troubling raids of Latino neighborhoods.
 
 
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Today marks the one-year anniversary of the enactment of parts of Arizona’s notorious anti-immigrant law, known as SB 1070. A trial is beginning in Phoenix for those arrested last year while protesting the bill by blocking the entrance of the Maricopa County jail. Among those facing misdemeanor civil disobedience charges is Rev. Peter Morales, the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. Rev. Morales was elected the first Latino president of the Unitarian Universalist Association in 2009. He joins us from Phoenix to talk about why he was arrested and his outspoken criticism of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s sweeping raids of Latino neighborhoods. “I participated in this not as a political act, but as an act of religious witness. My own faith is founded on a principle of the inherent worth and dignity of all people, of compassion and equity and democracy,” Morales says.

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Morales, you join us in Phoenix just before going to court. Explain the situation there. Why will you be in court today?

REV. PETER MORALES: Well, I’ll be in court. It’s taken a long time; it’s been a year since I was arrested. And as you said, it’s a misdemeanor charge. But what I believe is important about this is it’s an opportunity to, once again, bring before people the outrageous violation of basic human and civil rights that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department has been perpetrating for some time.

I participated in this not as a political act, but as an act of religious witness. My own faith is founded on a principle of the inherent worth and dignity of all people, of compassion and equity and democracy. And these, to us, sacred principles are being violated here in Arizona.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Reverend Morales, I’ve often said on this show that I believe that Arizona has become the new Alabama, as the symbol that Alabama represented during the civil rights movement, and that Joe Arpaio is the new Bull Connor.

REV. PETER MORALES: Absolutely.

JUAN GONZALEZ: How has he been able to stay in office? I know you’ve been trying to press the Justice Department on a continuing investigation that it has of his office?

REV. PETER MORALES: Oh, absolutely. And in fact, a letter is being delivered today to the Homeland Security and the Justice Department. The violations of civil rights here in Arizona are flagrant. There’s so much evidence to that effect. And I am deeply disappointed in our Department of Justice—it’s supposed to defend these basic human and civil rights of Americans—has failed to take action. They’ve been investigating for years now, and it goes on and on and on. It’s time to bring Joe Arpaio to justice. He’s the real criminal here.

AMY GOODMAN: So what exactly did you write in your letter to the Department of Justice this week?

REV. PETER MORALES: Well, I recount some of the events that have happened, and I call upon them to move forward. They have a constitutional responsibility and a legal responsibility to defend all of our rights. And when rights of—voting rights, when people are being profiled, when there are these sweeps that terrorize neighborhoods going on, that are clearly illegal, and then the brutality and the treatment of so many prisoners—it’s been well, well documented—it’s time for our Department of Justice to take action.

JUAN GONZALEZ: There are many people across the country, who are not from Arizona or don’t know the situation in Arizona, who may not be familiar with some of the specifics of the tactics that Joe Arpaio has been using. I know you’ve been to Nogales, interviewed people who have been deported, what happened to them.

 
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