Arpaio to close jails due to protest

Posted: Updated:
By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will close all jails in anticipation of a planned protest Saturday outside Tent City, expected to draw crowds as large as 4,000 people.

Phoenix is currently playing host to 3,500 members of the Unitarian Universalist Association from around the country who are in town for a convention. The organization’s president expects most of them to attend the protest, which will focus on climate conditions at Tent City, and alleged civil rights violations at the jail.

“We are there to bear witness against the inhumane policies and the clear violation of fundamental civil rights,” said Unitarian Universalist Association President Peter Morales.
The protest comes in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s ruling on SB 1070, and hundreds of supporters of undocumented immigrants are also expected to join Saturday’s demonstration.
“Tent City is one of the worst jails in the country. It is hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and there is no reason human beings should be outside,” said Carlos Garcia of Puente, an immigrants’ rights organization.
Sheriff Arpaio said the conditions in the jail are fine, and there are no civil rights violations.
“There is no discrimination. Everyone is treated equally in our jails,” said Arpaio.  
Still, Arpaio is anticipating potential security problems related to the protest.
“When the word gets out that there are going to be a lot of demonstrators, these inmates want to demonstrate inside the jail. We have some information that there will be some problems in our jail, so I made a decision to stop visitation,” said Arpaio.
Inmates at Tent City and all county jails will be denied visitation all day Saturday, as a security measure. Sheriff Arpaio will also be at Tent City to “defend tent city and his jail policies,” according to an MCSO press release.
However, Arpaio is opening the doors of the jail to leaders of the protesting organization, to allow them speak with inmates and inspect conditions.
“If a few of them want to visit me in the tents, we’ll take a nice little tour,” said Arpaio.
Morales and Garcia will be among those touring the facilities with Arpaio, but the Sheriff does not expect to be persuaded by them.
“They’re not going to stop me with their little demonstration,” said Arpaio.
The protest is set to begin at 6 pm on Saturday outside Tent City.