In October, 17 people met in a Phoenix park to protest. Some knew each other; others were strangers who came in response to a flyer.
Their protest theme was Black Lives Matter. Some carried umbrellas – useful if police employ tear gas or if items are thrown by counter-protestors. The 17 were arrested. Then things got interesting.
The Maricopa County Attorney charged them with engaging in violent “street gang” activity. They were charged with being an organized “street gang,” even though some never knew the others. Prosecutors told a Grand Jury that the 17 BLM protestors were like the Crips, Bloods, Hells Angels and other criminal “gangs.” Among the charges were that some came armed with weapons – the umbrellas.
Local media picked up the story. The County Attorney dismissed the charges, claiming they were a mistake. Was it a mistake, or the continuation of a pattern? In a different case, county prosecutors asked for “enhanced sentences” for other BLM protesters, citing their involvement in “criminal gang” protests.
Is history being repeated? Didn’t the county taxpayers pay over $150 million for Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s violation of civil rights? How long will it be before the county attorney is charged with civil rights violations, brought before a federal judge and the taxpayers are on the hook for her misconduct?
Maybe she will piggyback on the Arpaio theme and claim to be the “Toughest County Attorney in America.” That worked for Arpaio, until he ran into even tougher federal judges. Politicians play with taxpayers’ money, not their own. If (or when) the county attorney is called to account, she will be praised by some in the community. For many elected politicians, public praise is all that matters, regardless whose rights are violated, and provided the bill is paid by others.