May 16, 2009

Last week we reported on Sheriff Joe's recent photo op with a clutch of neo-Nazis who came out to counter-protest at a march held to raise a stink about Arpaio's racial-profiling ways.

Now Stephen Lemon, the Phoenix New Times reporter who dug much of this up, follows up with an amazing in-depth report on Arpaio and his associations with local white supremacists -- particularly an outfit called United for a Sovereign America.

USA is run by a fellow named J.T. Ready, whom you can see here, in the business suit:


You can read more about Ready here.

Lemon's story has a wealth of detail, but the most disturbing aspect is the extent to which he uncovers an actual operational relationship between Arpaio's office and these white supremacists:

Yet the sheriff's involvement with extreme hate groups is not incidental. The relationship has been prolonged and intentional, arguably helping him get re-elected last year in a county where much of the electorate is hostile toward Mexican immigrants.

Since 2007, Arpaio has appeared at nativist events, accepted awards from groups such as the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, welcomed U.S.A. leader Rusty Childress into his immigration sweep headquarters, spoken at nativist meetings frequented by neo-Nazis, and used petitions circulated by extremists to justify his immigration dragnets.

... This May 2 dalliance with Coletto and J.T. Ready wasn't the first time Arpaio has associated with the neo-Nazis. In March 2008, the sheriff spoke before a United for a Sovereign America meeting at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Sunnyslope, where U.S.A. affiliate Elton Hall was in attendance. Hall, 75, is a legend in Arizona neo-Nazi circles, venerated by racist skinheads for his work as an organizer for George Lincoln Rockwell's American Nazi Party in the 1960s.


Despite its infamy, U.S.A. has drawn visits from such local, far-right luminaries as State Senator Pearce, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, and Arizona GOP Chairman Randy Pullen. But it's Sheriff Arpaio who arguably has the tightest ties to the organization.

Much of this was already known about Arpaio. But what we didn't know is that his office was coordinating things with a liaison with the USA faction:

Also troubling are indications that the MCSO, in some cases, instructs U.S.A. through member Barb Heller, who has bragged about her contacts with the Sheriff's Office to anyone who will listen, and who apparently receives instruction and advice on how U.S.A. should handle itself.


Indeed, it was [USA activist Dusty] Galeener who instigated Arpaio to bring one of his anti-immigrant sweeps to Bell and Cave Creek roads, near the Macehualli center. Though the center is generally supported by local businesses in the Palomino neighborhood, Galeener was able to find eight businesses, out of hundreds in the busy Bell Road corridor, willing to request an MCSO sweep in writing. The meager support for Galeener from local shops was enough to get the sheriff marching in lockstep with U.S.A.'s agenda.

Not long after the MCSO set up its command center in a parking lot at Bell and Cave Creek Roads on March 27, about 700 anti-Arpaio demonstrators encircled the provisional headquarters, held back by MCSO barricades. About two dozen counter-demonstrators from U.S.A. and the motorcycle group Riders Against Illegal Aliens also showed up. These pro-Arpaio counter-demonstrators received special protection from MCSO deputies while they were there. Both sides threw water bottles and soft-drink cans at each other. At one point, a man with a shotgun slung over his back was arrested by the MCSO after appearing on the scene. Neither side claimed him as one of their own. He seemed to be one of the many disturbed individuals attracted to Arpaio's circus-like sweeps.

During a March 20 address at the Sunnyslope VFW post, Arpaio tipped off U.S.A. that the Bell Road sweep was coming on March 27.

"I appreciate your support," he told the U.S.A. crowd, including neo-Nazi Elton Hall. "You're on the right track. You're doing what you should be doing."


Like Arpaio himself, the MCSO is quick to show favoritism to United for a Sovereign America, and there is evidence that they act in concert, with the MCSO sometimes instructing U.S.A. members on what to do and how to comport themselves.

Acting as a go-between is 52-year-old U.S.A. member Barb Heller, who reports to the group from contacts inside the Sheriff's Office. Heller, to put it mildly, is a Joe Arpaio fanatic, who attends almost every pro-Arpaio demonstration, and once (wearing a tank top) painted "Go Joe" on her upper chest for an event — a photo she proudly displays on her MySpace page.

On the first night of the sheriff's recent anti-immigrant sweep in Avondale, Heller was present with about 30 U.S.A. members and assorted nativists. Sharing the same sidewalk in front of the sheriff's command post were about 100 anti-Arpaio protesters. The MCSO provided no crowd control, though the two sides harangued each other incessantly.

Late in the evening, an MCSO sergeant placed an orange traffic pylon in the middle of the sidewalk and warned the anti-Joe side against passing this new boundary. When one activist playfully moved the cone, the sergeant returned with MCSO SWAT Captain David Letourneau, who warned that anyone who touched the cone would be arrested. Asked what the charge would be, Letourneau stated, "Whatever we can think of."

The entire exchange is captured in a video posted on YouTube and can be seen at Neither Letourneau nor the sergeant advised the nativists not to cross the MCSO's pylon-marked boundary, only the anti-Arpaio faction.

The MCSO apparently was in contact with Heller via cell phone. After everyone dispersed, she and another nativist approached the deputies and spoke with them near their command post, a move that surely would have gotten the anti-Arpaio protesters thrown in jail. At a U.S.A. meeting following the exchange, Heller stated that she had received a phone call about 11:30 p.m. asking that she and the group leave so that the protesters would leave and the deputies could go home. She also mentioned that her "friend on the squad" called her later that night and informed her that MCSO deputies were called back out to investigate a home invasion in the area.

That Department of Justice investigation can't come soon enough.

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