The film by J.M. Aragon aired on Saturday to a packed house at the Salt of the Earth Labor College’s first class of the fall semester.
I have been in Arizona long enough to have a general knowledge of Arpaio’s dastardly deeds– the neighborhood sweeps for illegal aliens [his terminology], the racial profiling, the tent city jails in the desert, the chain gangs, the pink underwear, the bologna sandwiches, and the investigations of Arpaio that never go anywhere.
But I was shocked by what I didn’t know– murder and torture (on video tape) inside the Maricopa County Jail; trumped up traffic charges to back up police stops (thanks to SB1070); intimidation, arrest, and detention of elected officials (including several members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors) and others who challenge his authority or tactics; destruction of evidence by the Sheriff’s office; and millions of dollars in lawsuits brought against him.
Aragon and co-producer Mary Charlotte Thurtle have created a chilling documentary by weaving together interviews of Latino activists who have been targeted by Arpaio; interviews of lawyers and family members of prisoners who were murdered by Sheriff’s deputies inside the jail; surveillance video from the Maricopa County jail; videos of traffic stops as they happen; and Arpaio’s speeches.
The big questions that I came away with are: Why isn’t Arpaio in jail? Who votes for this guy? Has anyone been tortured and murdered in the Pima County Jail?
The current version of Under Arpaio is a director’s cut, according to Aragon. During the next few months, he will be showing the film to small audiences around Tucson and raising funds for broader distribution. He plans to have a larger viewing at The Loft in the future.
It is a marvelous film, which deserves national attention. This film made me glad I don’t live in Maricopa County. Here’s the trailer.