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Arizona protest wins, opposes racist Republican agenda

By J. Arnoldski

Protest of Gov. Brewer's State of the State address Jan. 13 in Phoenix

Phoenix, AZ – Governor Jan Brewer delivered her business-as-usual State of the State address here on Jan. 13. Outside the capitol building, a crowd of nearly 100 students and community activists protested the “State of Hate” created by Arizona Republicans. Led by Citizens for a Better Arizona, a coalition of groups rallied, including Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) of Tucson.

The demonstration countered Governor Brewer’s right-wing agenda. The people’s rally held the Governor accountable for the neglect of over 6000 uninvestigated Child Protective Services abuse cases, protested the bigoted lawsuit of Attorney General Tom Horne against in-state tuition for undocumented students at Maricopa Community College, and called for an end to Governor Brewer’s ban on access to driver’s licenses for undocumented students – the Dreamers.

Students carried signs such as “Let Dreamers learn – education is a right!” SDS of Tucson challenged Attorney General Tom Horne’s threats of lawsuits against Arizona community colleges that offer tuition equity. Currently, undocumented students who grow up in Arizona and attend high school there are required to pay out-of-state tuition. This forces many to drop out and take low-paying jobs.

Ed Tolentino explained, “Tucson SDS really prepared to be a part of this action because of our commitment to equal access to education as a human right. The struggle for tuition equity is above all a struggle for equal educational opportunity for both documented and undocumented students, who, regardless of citizenship status, are humans. We hope to take this first action in demanding tuition equity in the direction of a larger student movement in which SDS can play an important role in fighting for equality on and off campus.”

Leaders held high an “Arizona GOP hate-meter”, detailing the Republican policies and Arizona laws that target Chicanos, Mexicanos, American Indians and others for repression. Arizona Republicans passed the infamous law known as SB-1070 that forced police to racially profile people based on “reasonable suspicion”. While the courts struck down most of SB-1070, the idea that some people and not others are “suspicious of looking illegal” was upheld. There is also the racist Sheriff Arpaio and his policy of raiding undocumented families in order to meet quotas for deportation and for-profit detention centers. Republicans continue to deny driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, despite the fact it harms everyone who drives or has auto insurance. In Arizona, national oppression of Chicanos is a major part of the Republican agenda.

After speeches, protesters burned driver’s licenses in solidarity with undocumented immigrants. Other protesters blocked the entrances and exits of the capitol, before deciding to pay a visit the governor’s office at the neighboring executive office building. Police attempted to deny access to Governor Brewer’s office, so a tense standoff developed. After a sharp verbal exchange, demonstrators surged passed the police to the elevators and rode up to the executive floor. State police were preparing to arrest them on the eighth floor, but protesters cleverly refused to exit the elevators and threw their stuffed animals – representing Arizona’s neglect of children and their education – at the feet of the arresting officers. The chants of “Stop the hate!” echoed through the capitol. State police, under the careful watch of Governor Brewer’s aides, took Elmo and his other furry friends into custody.

Tolentino, an organizer of the action said, “This protest proves the power of community and campus organizing. We hope that in the coming months an awakened Arizona rises to challenge the Republicans’ vicious attacks on the justice and dignity of its people.”

Organizers are claiming a victory in the wake of their protest. Governor Brewer announced in her speech that she was moving Child Protective Services out from under the authority of Department of Economic Security and giving it a stand-alone cabinet level position. The struggle for licenses and preserving tuition equity continues.

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