Sharpton stirs up controversy on Ariz. sheriff
By Jonathan J. Cooper
PHOENIX — The Rev. Al Sharpton called Friday for opponents of an Arizona sheriff who has aggressively cracked down on illegal immigration to videotape alleged racial profiling by the sheriff's office.
The civil rights leader said the videos will help the U.S. Department of Justice in an investigation of alleged civil rights abuses by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office. Sharpton was scheduled to meet with Arpaio later Friday.
"We're gonna start some freedom rides around this county, to show how people of a certain skin color are treated different than other people," Sharpton told a crowd of several hundred people at the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Phoenix.
The meeting Friday joins two figures known for outsized egos and media antics, but Sharpton said the meeting had a serious message. In April, Sharpton called for Arpaio to resign or be removed from office.
"I will not fly all the way across country to engage in the personality of Sheriff Joe," Sharpton said. "But I will fly anywhere to protect the rights of Citizen Jose and Citizen Jamal."
Critics said sheriff's deputies have racially profiled people during immigration and crime sweeps in some Latino areas in metropolitan Phoenix.
Arpaio had said people pulled over in the sweeps were approached because deputies had probable cause to believe they had committed crimes.
The sheriff has taken a hard line against illegal immigration and strongly enforces Arizona's employer-sanctions law, which punishes businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants. He worked with Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas to use the state's human-smuggling law to charge illegal immigrants for conspiring to smuggle themselves into the state.
The sheriff has publicly clashed with other local law enforcement who said Arpaio was damaging a delicate relationship between the police and the Hispanic community.
Copyright 2009 Associated Press