Jim Cross/KTAR and Sandra Haros/KTAR (October 16th, 2009 @ 12:10pm)
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio launched another of his controversial crime suppression sweeps Friday as the Rev. Al Sharpton came to the Valley to urge blacks and Latinos to work together against discrimination.
The Sheriff's Office began the operation at mid-day in the northwest Valley. It was to involve 200 sworn deputies and posse personnel. The exact location was not announced.
Arpaio was to comment at 5 p.m. at the command post, in the Sheriff's District 3 substation at the intersection of Dysart and Bell Roads in Surprise.
Meanwhile, about 100 critics of Arpaio and his policies on illegal immigration marched in downtown Phoenix. They carried signs saying, "Deport Arpaio" and some wore bandannas over their faces.
Organizer Salvadore Reza said the issue was not crime suppression.
"What we're going to try to do is start a mobilizing movement that will culminate in January here and will continue all the way up until we get immigration reform," Reza said as the protesters marched from outside the sheriff's headquarters to the Fourth Avenue Jail.
Sharpton, who was in the Valley five months ago to challenge Arpaio's policies, spoke at an Arizona State University Civil Rights Forum in downtown Phoenix Friday morning.
Blacks and Latinos need to join together to fight for civil rights and immigration reform, he said.
"You cannot free anybody until you are prepared to fight to free everybody," Sharpton said. "We don't have to fight to come from the back of the bus. That fight has been fought and won. But, we have to fight to take Latino and black kids from the back of the classroom. That battle still remains before us."
Sharpton said Arpaio is creating a power struggle with the federal government. The Homeland Security Department said Friday it has completed agreements with 55 state and local law enforcement agencies covering immigration policies. Those included one which prevents Arpaio from enforcing federal immigration laws on the streets, but still allows him to question inmates of his jails about their immigration status.
Arpaio vowed the change will not curtail his fight against illegal immigration. He did not reveal details of Friday's sweep, but was vocal about his intentions.
"I don't have a problem," he said. "I'm still going to arrest illegals under state laws and when we come across them, on traffic (violations) or anything else... We will continue doing crime suppression. It will not stop."
Past sheriff's sweeps have been denounced as racial profiling targeting Hispanics. Arpaio denied any racial profiling and said the crime sweeps were in high-crime areas and aimed at criminals, along with employers who are violating state law against hiring illegals.
Sharpton said, if Arpaio is taken out of the mix, Arizona is no better or worse than any other state when it comes to civil rights.