Remarks by Mayor Phil Gordon
March 28, 2008
Thank you, Veronica. Thank you, Governor Napolitano, for being here and for sharing your eloquent words with us.
As I look around this room, I see some of my very best friends. And many of my long-time friends. And I know that on December 3 of last year, when I asked our Police Department to review its internal policy -- some of you were frustrated. But you stayed with me – and I thank you. I am still one of the most fortunate guys in town to have you as my friends.
I'm always honored to be at this wonderful event that celebrates an American hero. In some ways, it's hard to believe that – all these years after Cesar Chavez stood up for the farm workers with such courage, conviction and eloquence – we are still struggling against very real issues of race and discrimination and injustice in this country. And sadly, in our own city.
I had prepared some remarks that were in keeping with your broad theme of education. But yesterday, something happened that moved me to give a different speech today. Though it's still about education.
Last night, the Sheriff communicated with the law enforcement professionals of our community like he communicates with most everyone – by issuing a press release. He announced that his 200 volunteer posse members would be "migrating north" to crack down on illegal aliens. "Migrating North". That's the phrase he used – intentionally mocking the language of the hard-working migrant workers who we honor and celebrate today. He says he's doing this because 10 business owners – including a pawn shop and a biker store -- asked him to. And who helped cirulate those 10 signatures to deliver to the Sheriff? A self-described Neo-Nazi.
The Sheriff worded his news release in such a way -- by naming groups of "bikers" who agree with him and will show up to support him – that deliberately sets the stage for shouting matches, confrontations or worse.
That's not acceptable behavior for anyone, let alone someone whose job is to help make our community safer.
Last week, he did the same thing. He sent 200 posse members into a different Phoenix neighborhood. Why? Listen to this quote, "We lock up murderers, we lock up everybody. We're here for crime suppression, and we're going to lock up everybody."
But the posse didn't lock up murderers. They locked up brown people with broken tail lights. How does that make our community safer? It doesn't. What does that add to our community discussion on diversity and justice? Nothing.
He calls this being tough. He calls it crime suppression. It is neither.
Those of us in this room today may disagree, from time to time, on some issues. But not often, and NOT on this issue.
While the Sheriff was arresting mothers and fathers for minor civil offenses, the Phoenix Police Department was doing a different kind of roundup.
Last week, the Phoenix Police Department went into a neighborhood that had been taken over by gang members and drug pushers. They arrested 42 criminals who were charged with 562 felony counts. Their bond is too high to post, and the neighbors have their neighborhood back.
It was, by any measure, a big roundup. Certainly for Phoenix. And THESE are the roundups that make sense and make us safer. THIS is the kind of roundup local police SHOULD be doing -- going after the worst of the worst – at the neighborhood level. And getting dangerous criminals off the streets.
Today, I say once again to the Sheriff what I've said all week – if he really feels compelled to act tough, and if he really wants to impact crime, he should do what Phoenix PD, DPS, the FBI, Mesa PD and every other police agency does – with each other. Go after criminals – not a teenager driving with a broken tail light.
If he really wants to fight crime, he should start rounding up dangerous criminals who have outstanding felony warrants issued for them. There are thousands of outstanding warrants in this County. How long are those going to stay piled up on his desk?
That would make us all safer.
But these made-for-TV stunts of his are putting Phoenix and Federal undercover Officers, who are working that same area, at great risk. And his own volunteer posse faces serious risks from serious criminals.
All in the name of broken tail lights -- on the cars of brown drivers.
The Sheriff should at least be candid about it. Don't say your going after murderers when you're not. Don't call it crime suppression when it isn't. And don't pass the buck to 10 business owners when thousands of others elected him to actually make our community safer.
I call upon everyone in this room – and especially the non-hispanics in this room – to speak out. Make your voices heard.
As Cesar Chavez said, "It is possible to become discouraged about the injustice we see everywhere. But God did not promise us that the world would be humane and just. He gives us the gift of life and allows us to choose the way we use our limited time on this earth. It is an awesome opportunity."
Most of us have been grabbing that opportunity for decades. But now is a good time to re-dedicate ourselves. Let's do that today. Let each of us renew our resolve to teach our children, and to practice in our own actions, the most simple of lessons. That everyone wants to be heard … everyone wants to be respected. That all cultures share a common world – and human needs that bind us together. We share a common destiny to recognize ourselves in all people. We must learn to create a world in which people of all cultures are treated with respect.
Let's focus on what we all want – solutions to challenges …
ways to make things work better than they currently are.
Can we continue the work of Cesar Chavez? Can we help fulfill the compassion of Robert Kennedy? Can we all share the Dream of Martin Luther King?
You know the answer.
Yes We Can.
Thank you, and God Bless you all.
Here is the Mayor's contact information if you would like to contact him yourself. PLEASE SUPPORT HIM IN HIS EFFORTS AGAINST ANTI-IMMIGRANT MESSAGES:
Phone: (602) 262-7111
Fax: (602) 495-5583