Sheriff Arpaio "Beaten To Death In Effigy" By Immigration Protesters
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Protesters as offensive as Sheriff Arpaio

By Anne T. Denogean

Tucson Citizen

Let's be clear. I think Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a bully with a badge.

But I don't think you persuade the public that the man is an out-of-control, raving lunatic by behaving like out-of-control, raving lunatics.

That's the kindest description I have for the immigration rights protesters who beat to a pulp a piñata meant to represent the sheriff during Arpaio's visit to Tucson last week.

This was the scene for those who missed Thursday evening's piece of street theater on East Broadway.

The sheriff came to town to plug his new book (an homage to himself) with a book-signing and a live radio interview with KNST-AM (790) at Barnes & Noble Booksellers. And where the state's finest ringmaster goes, a circus inevitably will pop up.

The Coalici??n de Derechos Humanos (Human Rights Coalition) organized a protest. The normal stuff. Some chanting and marching. Folks carrying signs calling the sheriff a fascist. A few protesters even infiltrated the sizable crowd of Arpaio supporters and disrupted the live radio broadcast by shouting out insults.

What occurred about midway through the protest, however, was truly disturbing. Several young protesters outside the store brought out a piñata meant to represent Arpaio.

The piñata, with a picture of Arpaio's face taped or glued to the head, was clad in a sheriff's uniform and equipped with pink handcuffs. One woman held up the piñata, while two teenage girls took turns bashing it with sticks. The Tucson Citizen ran a picture the next day of a teenage boy carting away the remains of the beheaded piñata.

While the beating of Arpaio in effigy proceeded, Isabel Garcia, [Email her]head of Humanos Derechos, a group that purports to stand for the dignity of all human beings, stood by and laughed.

The spectacle reminded me of the antics of an extremist on the other side of the issue, a Tucson man who does his best to incite riots by burning Mexican flags in public places. I wondered how Garcia would react if the virulent anti-illegal immigrant hard-liners were to burn her in effigy or hang a papier-mache figure meant to represent an Mexican illegal immigrant.

Garcia told me Friday that she thought the Arpaio piñata was great, although she said it wasn't brought in by organizers.

"I think it's a fair expression of First Amendment rights. I thought it was funny. It had him with the pink underwear and, of course, his face. And it's a piñata. It was a fun thing for the kids that broke it," she said. [More]

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Remember this, the next time someone panics at the sight of a piece of string with a knot in it, in the belief that it's a hangman's noose.

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