Arizona Senate president Russell Pearce (R) has been in hot water lately. He is currently facing a major recall campaign following a local scandal where it appears the Fiesta Bowl may have paid for Pearce’s out-of-state travel after he aggressively pushed for public subsidies for the organization.
The latest outrage from Pearce comes from a speech he gave before the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce last week. Responding a question about how he would respond to protests by public workers against the conservative agenda, he embraced the use of Sherrif Joe Arpaio’s infamous tent city prison camps:
According to the Yellow Sheet, Pearce made this crack about what he and his buddy Sheriff Joe Arpaio would do if workers stood up for their rights and demonstrated: “I’ve spoken with the sheriff, and he has some nice buses that hold a lot of people. We’ve also got some tents with a view.”
A CNN article from 1999 describes one of Arpaio’s infamous desert prisons as a “tent city [that] looks like a military camp in the desert, with thick canvas sleeping quarters spreading out in a remote area of Arizona.” It’s unclear whether Pearce was joking or not, but even if he made the comment in humor, it’s completely inappropriate for a high official in the Arizona government to even kid about taking such measures against Americans practicing their First Amendment rights. “I find it deeply chilling that an elected official finds it funny to discuss jailing a group of people expressing their First Amendment rights,” said Arizona AFL-CIO executive director Rebekah Friend in response to Pearce’s comments. “Suggesting a police crackdown before a rally has even occurred is just more of the same intimidation, threats and innuendo we’ve come to expect from Senator Pearce and his crony (Sheriff Joe) Arpaio.”