People such as the elusive Baseline Rapist are the real criminals on Valley streets — not illegal immigrants. That was one of the messages that several hundred protesters shared Friday morning in downtown Phoenix as they criticized Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Maricipa County Attorney Andrew Thomas.
The demonstration, which was staged by the statewide advocacy organization Immigrants Without Borders (Emigrantes Sin Fronteras), drew hundreds of mostly Latino protesters from all over the Valley. Some carried signs bearing the eerie police sketching of the Baseline Rapist with the words "This is the real criminal."
Others had posters accusing Arpaio of racism, and still others implored the sheriff not to be "nosy with the Border Patrol Job."
Wearing makeshift plastic handcuffs and blue tape over their mouths, they marched to Arpaio's office, where the group's president Elías Bermúdez got on his knees in a melodramatic gesture before the sheriff and a media mob. He asked the sheriff to have a heart when it comes to undocumented workers.
"We implore you to stop the hostility against the Hispanic community," Bermúdez said.
But Arpaio wasn't budging.
"You can't change my mind on this," Arpaio countered. "I will continue to lock up illegals who conspire with smugglers."
Things heated up a bit when Bermúdez told Arpaio he would be out of a job if he didn't reconsider.
"If you don't want to work with us, then the only thing I can tell you is you cannot be our sheriff," Bermúdez said. "We as a Latino community will do the most we can to remove you from public office."
Arpaio and Thomas have been using a new state law that targets human smugglers as a means to arrest people who hire "coyotes." Several months ago, Arpaio launched a posse of civilians charged with patrolling the county border and stopping anyone trying to smuggle himself into the country.
Thomas' interpretation of the law has sparked controversy among pro-immigrant groups. But while a Superior Court Judge upheld the county attorney's legal interpretation of the coyote law in June, that very same judge delivered a blow to Arpaio's efforts after dismissing conspiracy charges against two immigrants in court on Tuesday.