Pearce won't rule out further bans of activists from state Senate - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Pearce won't rule out further bans of activists from state Senate

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Posted: Monday, February 28, 2011 4:47 pm | Updated: 3:29 pm, Tue Jun 14, 2011.

Senate President Russell Pearce refused Monday to promise that no one else would be permanently banned from the Senate as was an immigration rights activist last week.

"I'm a little tired of the fact we want to defend this inappropriate behavior,'' Pearce said in comments to the full Senate. He said the actions of those who were rowdy last week while watching a committee debate immigration measures on closed-circuit television would not be tolerated.

"Decorum will be maintained here, order will be maintained,'' he said. "And the protection and safety of our members is paramount.''

Pearce also said it was not his decision to ban Salvador Reza from the building, a ban that resulted in Reza's arrest Thursday on charges of trespass when he refused to leave. And he said there is no list from his office of who is not permitted in the Senate.

"I leave it up to law enforcement, intelligence information to decide that appropriately,'' Pearce said. "I certainly have empowered them to do that.''

But that claim runs counter to what DPS Sgt. Jeff Trapp, who is in charge of Senate security, wrote in his own statement recalling what happened last Tuesday.

The controversy surrounds the lengthy hearing that night when the Senate Appropriations Committee took up several measures aimed at illegal immigration. Far more showed up than the capacity of the small room in which the hearing was scheduled. So the balance -- some estimates were as high as 300 -- were sent to a larger room to watch on TV.

There were cheers and applause from the audience during some of the testimony. Such conduct is not permitted in hearing rooms where live testimony is taking place.

Trapp wrote that Pearce told him that "offenders'' of Senate rules in the overflow seating area "be identified, photographed, and that the information be posted at the Senate guard desk and that these offenders be denied further entrance into the Senate.''

Trapp's report confirms, though that Pearce, when he issued that directive Tuesday, did not know that the person who police identified as the "leader'' was Reza.

On Monday, Senate Minority Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe, said he does believe in maintaining decorum in the Senate as well as providing security.

"But I have to disagree with the statement you put out on Friday that deemed applause in a room where no hearing was taking place as a 'dangerous situation,' '' Schapira said. "I also believe it is inappropriate, perhaps unlawful, to deny Arizona citizens access to their state capitol due to such an incident.''

The Tuesday night banning did not become public until Thursday afternoon when Reza came to the Senate for a pre-arranged meeting with Sen. Steve Gallardo.

Trapp wrote that he read Reza a statement telling Reza that "the Senate president's office has instructed me to tell you that due to disruptive and disorderly behavior you are no longer allowed inside the Arizona State Senate.'' When Reza refused to leave, he was arrested and booked on charges of trespass.

Gallardo said that was inappropriate.

"It appears the only thing he is guilty of is walking into the building to meet with his elected representative,'' he said. And as far as what happened Tuesday, "there were 200 people in that room that were clapping,'' Gallardo said, yet Reza was the only one barred.

Pearce acknowledged that others were "loud, over the top, with some drum banging and other activity.'' And he said that, when asked to stop, "they made mockery out of that.''

But the Senate president did not dispute that Reza was the only one banned, saying that police made that decision "as they have been empowered to do.''

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