The controversy and protest probably would have ended that evening--except for the part where Derechos Humanos co-chairman and Pima County legal defender Isabel Garcia was caught on video parading around with the head of a piñata constructed in the image of Arpaio.
This raised the ire of Jon Justice, conservative morning talk-show host at KQTH FM 104.1 The Truth. Once the images of Garcia carrying around a representation of Arpaio's detached head were made available on YouTube, he used his microphone to implore callers to flood the phone lines at County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry's office. The effort was successful--at least in keeping operators very busy on a recent Friday morning.
Garcia has been in Justice's crosshairs for some time, and she has not been shy about responding in kind, often referring to Justice's program as the latest example of hate radio in Tucson.
While efforts to reach Garcia did not garner a response by press time, she released a statement last week on the Derechos Web site.
"Derechos Humanos protested Arpaio, handing out (fliers), briefly explaining why, and what he has done in Phoenix," the statement reads. "The leaflet states that we 'continue to work for a community that is diverse, respectful, and appreciative of each other's differences.' Others brought signs and megaphones, with someone bringing a large piñata with Arpaio's face glued on the head. I am sure you are aware that these types of symbolic images are not only common, but generally are used in context of referring to the policies of individuals in power.
"I am now the target of a corporate-media-sponsored campaign to get me fired from my job as the Pima County legal defender. The first thing that you should know is that this is not a community-based campaign by those that disagree with me, but a campaign that was instigated by Jon Justice (not his true name) who has a program in the new hate-radio in town, 104.1 FM. On Friday morning, he was on his program urging everyone to call Chuck Huckelberry to fire me because I dared exercise my First Amendment right to express my views. They cover it by saying that the breaking of a piñata is a violent act! ??? That is simply absurd. The piñata was a symbol of Arpaio's racist, violent and brutal policies. The youth did not hit Arpaio; they hit the piñata to break the policies that keep us fearful of each other... He is the violent one."
Derechos Humanos is in the process of mounting a counter-campaign against Journal Broadcasting, which owns KQTH and KGUN Channel 9.
"No one ever questioned the Arpaio protesters or Isabel's right to free speech and the First Amendment," said Justice in his blog at 1041thetruth.com. (Journal management did not give Justice approval for a direct conversation with the Tucson Weekly prior to press time.) "What was condemned were the actions that are inappropriate for a member of the Arizona State Bar/taxpayer-funded Pima legal defender and the disrespect that she and other protesters had for our law enforcement. The bottom line is that the community is no longer sitting in silent opposition to the tactics of these extremist border-rights groups."
For his part, Justice has added an intact piñata of Garcia as a member of his morning show--something that has greatly riled Derechos Humanos.
Following the initial KQTH uproar (which--let's face it--probably didn't hurt ratings), other factions predictably got involved in the fray. Maricopa County and Arpaio have requested action be taken against Garcia. Roy Warden, the man who burns Mexican flags downtown in protest (often referred to as Asshat in the Weekly), is attempting to mount an anti-Garcia campaign of his own.
Among media outlets, KVOA Channel 4 posed a poll question on its Web site eliciting opinions as to what action, if any, should befit Garcia's behavior.
Well, that story got legs because of longtime democratic political activist Ted Prezelski, whose blog, rumromanismrebellion.net, posted these comedic McCain classics on Tuesday, July 15. (If you must know these "jokes," head to Prezelski's Web site.)
"I put it up at 7:30 (a.m.), and by 11, it was up on Huffington," said Prezelski, referring to high-profile liberal blog HuffingtonPost.com.
It's not the first time Prezelski's blog garnered significant attention. He broke the story about Jim Kolbe's congressional retirement.
"Jim Nintzel (of the Tucson Weekly) gave me credit for that on Arizona Illustrated, and that gave me some credibility," Prezelski said.
Prezelski has been named Arizona's blogger at the Democratic National Convention in Denver next month.
As a result, Opie and Anthony was pulled from its traditional morning-show time slot and aired live from 3 to 6 a.m. on 107.5, making it likely the most expensive program in the history of Tucson's pre-morning drive. The fate of the show was long clear, and once the contract expired, the rest was a formality.