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    Christopher B. Dupont
     Trautman Dupont PLC 
     PO Box 431
     Phoenix, AZ, 85001

     Phone: (602) 770-8942

    Christopher R. Trautman
     Trautman Dupont PLC
     6858 N. 85th Street
     Scottsdale, AZ  85250

     Phone: (602) 670-0073



Arpaio’s uncivil ‘support' of civil disobedience

In an almost charmingly naïve way – almost – Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio doesn't quite get the concept of “civil disobedience.”
If he did, the sheriff would not have sent out a press release earlier this week with a bright red headline proclaiming: “SB1070 Activists Convicted in Nationally Televised Protest That Caused Serious Disruption to Sheriff's Office.”

The first line of the press release reads: “Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio says ‘it's about time' that the courts found activist Salvador Reza and others guilty of acts of failure to comply with lawful orders on July 29th, 2010.”

A year ago in July the public outcry over SB1070 was at its peak. There were protests and demonstrations. All of the national media was here. Reza and other protesters locked arms outside the Fourth Avenue Jail as part of what the National Day Labor Organizing Network called the "International Day of Non-Compliance."

The protesters knew they would be arrested.

They wanted to be arrested.

Civil disobedience only works if the people participating in it can get the attention of the general public and, most importantly, the media. The hope is that exposure of the perceived injustice will help to instigate change.

The protesters arrested by Arpaio last year claimed that the arrests were selective and decided to fight the $450 fine each had received for failing to obey police and obstructing a thoroughfare.

They didn't expect to win, necessarily, but they knew that they could use court appearances to highlight what they believe to be the failures of the law and the abuses of the sheriff's department. And it worked.

The media rarely passes up a colorful activist. Or politician. Arpaio knows this. He's the unquestioned master of manipulating the local, national and international media.

The protesters stole a page out of Arpaio's playbook and used it against him.

Taking their case to court was more expensive than simply paying the fine, unless you figure in the value of the publicity, which kept their concerns in the public view.

It isn't a new concept.

It's what Henry David Thoreau did when he invented the term civil disobedience while refusing to pay a poll tax in 1848.

It's what the suffragettes did to get the vote.

It's what Rosa Parks did.

In its grandest form it is what Ghandi did against British rule in India and Martin Luther King Jr. did with the civil rights movement here.

Civil disobedience only works if the public is aware that it is going on.

That is why Phoenix attorney Chris Dupont, who defended one of those arrested in the protests outside Arpaio's jail told a reporter, "Thank goodness for people who are willing to stand up to tyranny and injustice, even at great personal expense.”

When a court ruled against the defendants earlier this week news of the protests would have quietly gone away. But Arpaio stepped in.

His blustery press release reads: “The protest was staged to receive national publicity from virtually every media outlet as well as to cause disorder to Sheriff Arpaio's crime suppression operations being conducting on that July day. Arpaio says, ‘The court was correct to convict all 13 people… This Office will not tolerate acts of civil disobedience.' Arpaio adds that if similar events occur again, participants will be arrested and booked into jail.'”

I hope the guilty parties have expressed their gratitude to the sheriff. Their goal was media attention and they wouldn't have received any after the verdict if the sheriff had kept his mouth shut. Instead, he ignored his own first principal: There's no such thing as bad publicity.

So the protesters who lost in court can still claim victory – thanks to Joe.

(Column for Aug. 12, 2011, Arizona Republic)