Photos: News conference gives way to protest while Arpaio testifies

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Mike Watkiss

Posted on July 24, 2012 at 6:23 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 25 at 9:37 PM

PHOENIX -- Even as Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was on the stand answering questions about allegations of racial profiling, a group of undocumented immigrants gathered to share their stories with the media.

In addition to talking about living in Arizona, the group planned to "call for other undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows."

The protest, which involved some 60 people, spilled out into the street in front of the Sandra Day O'Connor United States Courthouse, 401 W. Washington Street in Phoenix. Dozens of police officers were called to the scene to try and clear the street.

Video from the scene showed officers taking several people into custody and escorting them away in handcuffs. It's not yet clear exactly how many people were detained.

The protest started with four individuals carrying a banner that said “No Papers, No Fear: Sin Papeles y Sin Miedo.”

Those people have been identified of Miguel Guerra, 37; Natally Cruz, 24, Leticia Ramirez, 27; and Isela Meraz Rodriguez, 28. All four are undocumented immigrants living in Phoenix, and all were willing to risk arrest to make their message heard.

Cruz, Ramirez and Maraz were all brought to the U.S. as children. Guerra came here when he was in his early 20s.

The group released the following statement:

“As undocumented people living in Arizona, we know firsthand what it is like to live under Arpaio’s terror and the constant threat of deportation. Many of us started participating in the movement for justice the day that Jan Brewer signed SB1070 into law. We knew at that moment that things were so terrible, we had to do something to protect our families and our communities. We have learned our rights and our experience has shown us that the best way to fight back is to come out of the shadows and organize.

"We have marched and we have protested. Today we are taking civil disobedience to ensure that our voices are heard. We are no longer afraid. Today, we confront publicly what we risk every day, being arrested by the police, and separated from our families, only because we are undocumented. We're confronting fear itself. We are undocumented and unafraid. We hope to inspire others in our own community to lose their fear, to come out of the shadows, and to organize.”

The news conference that preceded the protest was hosted by Puente Arizona, a community-based group that describes itself as "part of the global movement for migrant justice and human rights."

The group has been outspoken in its criticism of Arpaio and his department.

Arpaio is being sued in civil court on allegations that his trademark immigration sweeps amounted to racial profiling against Hispanics.

Plaintiffs, Latinos who say they have been the target of discrimination, say Arpaio singles out Latinos in disproportionate numbers, which amounts to racial profiling. Arpaio has steadfastly denied the accusations.

There are no fines or jail time on the line in this lawsuit. The plaintiffs simply want a declaration that Arpaio's office racially profiles Latinos and an order requiring policy changes.

The trial began last week and is expected to wrap up next week. There is no jury in the case. U.S. District Judge Murray Snow will make the decision.

Tuesday's protest was of a larger movement that is traveling across the country in the coming days. the "Undocubus Ride for Justice" is slated to leave Phoenix Sunday, hitting several key states, including New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. It will end its journey at the Democratic National Convention, which takes place Sept. 3-6 in Charlotte, N.C.

Associated Press Writer Jacques Billeaud contributed to this report.

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