There was more drama outside the Susan Day O’Connor federal courthouse in Phoenix than inside the courtroom Tuesday — where Sheriff Joe Arpaio said his office did not make arrests based on people’s “color of their skin” — as about 50 people demonstrated in the street, including several illegal immigrants who had come willing to be arrested.
Four immigrants with no legal status were handcuffed and taken away by city police after they blocked a nearby intersection, with an unfurled a banner that read “No Papers, No Fear,” for about an hour. Each one sat on one corner of the banner and chanted “Dignity is fighting here. No papers, no fear.” with the crowd.
They all knew they were going to be taken into custody and issued a statement beforehand.
Leticia Ramirez, a mother of three who has lived undocumented in the U.S. for 18 years, said goodbye to her daughter as the tearful toddler before she was handcuffed and taken away. “We’ll see each other Wednesday,” the woman told the girl. “Give a kiss to your little brother and your Papi, okay?”
“He’s been casing our community, he’s been chasing my people and I’m here to tell him that I’m making his job easy,” Ramirez said. “I’m not going to stand for what he’s doing to my community. and come get me.r. stop chasing my comty. im here come get me.
Another protestor defiantly told someone videotaping the protest for Puente AZ, the grassroots organization that organized the protest, that she would gladly be arrested for the cause.
“And I’m going to sit here,” said the woman, who identified herself as Natally, 24, and said she had been in the U.S. illegally for 16 years.
“Every day I run that risk, every day. Either driving or doing anything. It’s the same thing as sitting here and saying ‘I am undocumented and unfraid.’”
Miguel Guerra, another one of the protestors arrested, said the act was meant to show a strong message to Arpaio and his deputies: That they were no longer afraid.
“I am not afraid to be here and tell Arpaio that we are not afraid,” Guerra said. “We are here to tell him that we are not criminals. We are coming out to say we are not afraid and that the real criminal is inside, testifying. Not us.”
The demonstration appears to be orchestrated by the grassroots community-based group called Puente, that sent out a statement for the four and is collecting funds for their bail.
“They showed great leadership today,” said a man speaking for the organization. “They made their own decisions. It was a difficult decision.
“But the community is going to be there for them because they are there for the community. They are representing us.”
Phoenix police say the four were arrested for blocking an intersection and will likely face a misdemeanor charge of failure to obey law enforcement orders.
The four live in Phoenix and range in age from 24 to 37, according to Puente and a website called Standing On the Side of Love that fights oppression.
“If you’re reading this, it’s because I and three others are in jail,” Ramirez wrote. “Today four of us who are undocumented members of Puente came out as unafraid and were arrested at the racial profiling trial of Sheriff Arpaio here in Phoenix. We did peaceful civil disobedience to set an example for our community and to show Arpaio we aren’t hiding any more.
“We know no human being is illegal. What Arpaio is doing to our community is illegal,” Ramirez wrote. “Before, our biggest fear was ending up in his jail. Today, we went in with our heads high because its better to be out of the shadows than in them.
“We went in feeling safe because we know we have a community that supports us. We’re willing to risk everything because we know that you have our back.”
She said the protest was the first of many planned actions this summer as part of the “No Papers No Fear Ride for Justice” that takes off from Phoenix this Sunday. The caravan will intends to travel the country for six weeks visiting with immigrant communities.
“Challenging our fears and challenging the Sheriffs that cause them,” Ramirez said.
“It’s a new day in Arizona and everywhere. We’re losing our fear and uniting to peacefully defend ourselves.”