Protester arrested at county supervisors meeting - East Valley Tribune: News

Protester arrested at county supervisors meeting

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Posted: Monday, September 29, 2008 3:57 pm | Updated: 10:56 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The Board of Supervisors on Monday voted again to end the county’s law enforcement contract with the town of Guadalupe during a heated meeting where a spectator was arrested.

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The meeting was held to ratify a similar vote taken Sept. 17. But that vote was nullified because Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies and county security personnel blocked public access in violation of the Arizona Open Meetings Law.

On Monday, the board voted 3-1 to pull the sheriff’s office from Guadalupe within 180 days. The move came after Sheriff Joe Arpaio tried to terminate the contract himself, in response to public criticism by the former mayor who complained about a sheriff’s office sweep targeting illegal immigrants in April.

Arpaio, however, lacks the authority to end the contract, leaving the duty to the supervisors.

At Monday’s meeting, sheriff’s deputies arrested Randy Parraz, an organizer of a group called Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability, after escorting him and about 12 other members of the group out of the meeting for speaking out of turn.

More information about Parraz’s arrest was not immediately available. Sheriff’s office spokesman Capt. Paul Chagolla, who was at the scene, repeatedly walked away without even acknowledging a Tribune reporter who was trying to ask him questions.

Parraz and members of his group have attended Board of Supervisors meetings since the summer seeking to be placed on the official agenda to discuss their concerns about Arpaio. The supervisors have refused their request.

Monday’s do-over ratification meeting was tense from the start.

At least 30 deputies and guards were stationed inside and outside the county auditorium where the meeting took place. Authorities distributed yellow fliers to those entering stating that disruptive people would be removed, and that weapons and signs were not permitted.

Speaking before the meeting started, Parraz, an attorney, asked sheriff’s deputies to explain how signs could be banned.

“We want someone to come down, Sheriff, come explain to us: Where’s the rule?” he said. “Who made this rule? Is it the Board of Supervisors’ rule? Or is this a deputy rule? Or did Sheriff Arpaio issue this this morning?”

After receiving no answer, members of the group stood to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and to offer an invocation. Only Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, an Arpaio critic, stood for the pledge and prayer, while Supervisors Fulton Brock, Andy Kunasek and Max Wilson remained seated. Supervisor Don Stapley did not attend the meeting.

After the meeting started, dozens of the citizens group held aloft paper signs with messages that included “Cover up,” “Corruption” and “Public Safety First.” Deputies instructed spectators to remain in their seats, an unusual directive considering that in most public meetings, government employees, spectators and reporters constantly walk in and out and confer with others around the room.

Before the vote on the Guadalupe matter, Wilcox made a motion to postpone the decision until the board receives legal advice concerning a lawsuit filed last week by the town of Guadalupe aimed at preventing the county from ending the law enforcement contract. The motion died when none of the other supervisors supported it.

Deputies didn’t react to the signs, but after the supervisors voted down the Guadalupe motion, members of the group began standing and shouting at the board. Deputies escorted the Parraz and the others out, then arrested Parraz moments later.

Corinne Widmer, who also was asked to leave the meeting, said she was with Parraz when he was arrested moments after the shouting started.

“We were standing outside and they told us to get down and to leave the area,” Widmer said. “We both didn’t leave, and they arrested Randy. There were six or seven officers surrounding him – and they arrested him because he wouldn’t leave. This is public space.”

Chad Snow, an attorney affiliated with the group, said he was also handcuffed and detained. Snow said that after Chairman Kunasek put the meeting in recess, he asked a deputy why he was instructing spectators to refrain from speaking. Four uniformed officers responded by leading him to a holding area where about 20 deputies waited, Snow said.

He was handcuffed, he said, then asked what probable cause they had to detain him against his will.

“I told them I was an attorney, and within about 30 seconds, one of them said, ‘You better let him go.’ And I came out right at the same time Randy Parraz was being led back in handcuffs,” Snow said.

It was “absolutely” clear that he and Parraz were treated differently because of their races, said Snow, who is white. Parraz is Hispanic.

Attorney Daniel Ortega, who’s also affiliated with the group, said the yellow fliers setting out rules for the meeting were an attempt by the supervisors to thwart Arpaio’s critics.

“Our First Amendment rights allow us to do that,” Ortega said. “Why would they do that?”

“This is only an example of a type of intimidation that they want to impose upon us, Number 1. And Number 2, that they learned by the pro himself, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.”

Arpaio called a press conference on short notice later in the day. He hung up on a Tribune reporter who called him on his cell phone afterward. Chagolla could not be reached for comment.

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