The scene is a sprawling housing development in Buckeye, Arizona. Its likely that this is a neighborhood that was hit hard during the housing foreclosure crisis of years past.
Buckeye is in Maricopa County, which seems unreal given you feel like you’re actually halfway to L.A. heading out that way from downtown Phoenix. A knock at the door and a man answers, and in the conversation he tells us he works for the government.
He says he’s ready to retire early and when asked about whether he is planning to vote he shakes his head discouragingly. ‘I don’t like Trump or Clinton. What the hell is this country coming to?’ I could’ve quickly scanned my talking points to rattle off a spin or a stat, but I couldn’t help but respond by saying, ‘I can relate.’
I imagine that others can relate to that sentiment, but there is still a question of what is the best course of action. Holding a few different truths in our hands, we’ve grappled with what is best for Mijente to do right now.
“On the one hand, we put our faith in social movements and collective action, not in candidates and electoral cycles. At the same time the threats levied in this election could set back our efforts and not only increase the violence our communities face, but encourage it.”
On the one hand, we put our faith in social movements and collective action, not in candidates and electoral cycles. At the same time the threats levied in this election could set back our efforts and not only increase the violence our communities face, but encourage it. But simply collapsing on the Clinton campaign to prevent a Trump presidency doesn’t set up a next step with momentum. It does not create energy for swift momentum from our communities on the most pressing issues of our time.
The reality is that for many marginalized and oppressed communities, Trump’s America is already here. That is why it is so important to engage communities of Color as political actors this Fall, not just as spectators in the sport of big money politics.
So we asked ourselves, where is there a place to actually win in this election. Come the results of November 8th, what outcome would be cause for celebration? And where we arrived was in Maricopa County, Arizona and the possibility of taking out the self-proclaimed toughest sheriff in America, Joe Arpaio.
Arpaio’s human rights rap sheet includes the reinstatement of the (female and male) chain gains, ‘Tent City’, work-site deportation raids and a litany of cases of abuse, harassment and death. Arpaio won by 80,000 votes in the last election. In this year’s GOP primary over 97,000 Republican voters voted against him. More than that, groups on the ground registered 130,000 new voters, the largest registration drive in the history of the state.
He is vulnerable and come what may, he is in decline. In this campaign, we are mixing traditional voter engagement with direct action centering the survivors of his reign. We have an opportunity to be the ones to write the last chapter of his sordid political history.
Mijente has joined forces with local community and labor organizations under the banner of ‘Bazta Arpaio’ to build upon the many years of organizing and advocacy against the sheriff and in perhaps his greatest moment of vulnerability in his more than 20-year tenure, knock him out of office.
“Because regardless of who wins in November, we have our work cut out for us.”
Because regardless of who wins in November, we have our work cut out for us. Trump or Clinton, we still have a stripped social safety net, empty schools, we still have bodies left dead in the streets at the hands of law enforcement, we still have a crisis in prisons, jails and detention centers. The best scenario we can set up for ourselves in 2017 is a scenario where we have momentum and some victories to build from.
Back when Arpaio decided immigrants would be his punching bag, he ran the first check points in my hometown of Guadalupe, AZ. As his terror spread, many would simply call him El Cucuy (The Boogeyman). The attacks of Trumpism have already been upon us in Arizona for some time. But the resistance has been here too. This November, we have an opportunity to knock Arpaio out of office once and for all. Most importantly, we have a chance for the people and communities he has so harmed to be the ones to do it.
But, we need your help. I want you to come to Phoenix Oct 21-23. I want you with us in the streets, in the neighborhoods, and with musicians in front of Arpaio’s headquarters. I want you to break bread with us and fight alongside us. Some of you have stood with us before here in Arizona. Some of you need the clarity that comes from a good campaign fight right now. It is hard to question what side we are on when our bodies are in motion. Will you join us?
Marisa Franco is the director of Mijente. She is originally from Guadalupe, Arizona. Follow Marisa on twitter at @marisa_franco