A human rights activist who was arrested Thursday at the State Capitol for trespassing is speaking out. An outspoken critic of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and SB 1070, Salvador Reza says Republican Senate President Russell Pearce has banned him from the Senate building.
Reza and a colleague went to the Capitol Thursday afternoon to speak to Democratic State Senator Steve Gallardo.
As soon as Reza walked in, a man who identified himself as the head of security told him Pearce had banned him from the Senate building, Reza says.
"When I said 'I want it in writing' they proceeded to not only arrest me but slam me against the window like if I was a common criminal and basically take my liberty away," says Reza.
"To make matters worse, the same individuals also grabbed a young 32-year-old woman and pulled her by the hair and arrested her even though she was not even subject to the alleged order by Russell Pearce," says attorney Stephen Montoya.
"They dragged me to the floor by my hair, both of them were grabbing me and then they handcuffed me," recalls Anayanse Garza, a colleague of Reza's.
Reza says he was never informed about being prohibited from entering the Capitol. Lawyers say security had no probable cause to arrest the two.
They say this was clearly an abuse of power, unlawful, and the use of excessive force.
"That immaturity that childishness that says that 'I is Mussolini and because I am elected president I am the dictator of Arizona..." says defense lawyer Antonio Bustamante, "Well he's not the dictator and we will be here each and every time he pulls off one of these absurd stunts."
"I have been here at the state legislature for many years, I've served in both the House and the Senate, I have never heard of anyone being denied or banned from either chamber," says Sen. Steve Gallardo.
Gallardo says he wants Pearce to turn over a list of anyone he may have banned from entering the Capitol, and says the public has a right to know.
Russell Pearce released a statement to FOX 10 Friday afternoon. He said, "Let me make it clear: there is no "blacklist" of people who are not allowed in the Senate building. These accusations are coming from the very people who are causing these disturbances, in an attempt to generate some kind of misplaced sympathy with the public."
He goes on to say: "As Senate President, it is my duty to protect our Members, staff and visiting public, and provide a safe, secure environment. The state Constitution gives the President control over the Senate building."
Pearce also pointed out the rowdiness at the capitol this week. On Tuesday, protesters disrupted Democratic State Senator Kyrsten Sinema when she discussed a bill targeting drop houses.
There was more chaos in a senate committee that evening during a hearing on legislation targeting illegal immigration. Capitol Police later arrested four people for disorderly conduct.
Then on Thursday, Pearce says a protester refused orders from officers. He says someone else screamed that somebody had a gun, and then attacked an officer.
Related Story: Immigrant Rights Leader Arrested at Capitol
Full Statement by Senate President Russell Pearce
Here in the Senate, we are wrapping up one of the busiest weeks in recent memory, with our members hard at work developing a state budget, considering dozens of Senate bills in Committee, and working on pension reform, education reform, border security and job creation. Unfortunately, this week has also been marred by three incidents in our Senate Building that threatened the safety of our members, staff and the public.
On Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema attempted to hold a news conference in a Senate hearing room to discuss a bill she sponsored. Instead of being able to take questions from the assembled media, she was confronted by a hostile group of activists protesting her bill. Sen. Sinema told Senate security she feared for her safety. Capitol police arrested four people on suspicion of disorderly conduct.
Tuesday night, the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing. Because of a large public turnout, Senate staff opened up an adjacent hearing room for the public to follow testimony. Security told those gathered to show respect and proper decorum, since the hearing rooms were so close to each other. Some in the audience ignored this directive, shouting slurs, clapping loudly and even banging a drum. Despite these disruptions, which could be heard in the Appropriations room, security remained patient and no arrests were made.
On Thursday afternoon, the prime agitator from Tuesday night’s crowd reappeared at the Senate. After refusing orders from law enforcement, he was escorted into a private room by police officers. Security reported that an individual accompanying the suspect charged the room and tried twice to make entry. That suspect also screamed that someone had a gun, causing a panic in an adjacent room hosting another hearing. This individual attacked an officer and is charged with disorderly conduct and aggravated assault on a peace officer.
All three of these incidents were dangerous situations that required prompt law enforcement. I make every effort to conduct the people’s business with the citizens of Arizona able to witness and participate in our work. But when people create disturbances and threaten Members and the public, law enforcement is required and expected to step in.
As Senate President, it is my duty to protect our Members, staff and visiting public, and provide a safe, secure environment. The state Constitution gives the President control over the Senate building. In the future, we will be much more vigilant over misconduct by anyone visiting this building.
Let me make it clear: there is no “blacklist” of people who are not allowed in the Senate building. These accusations are coming from the very people who are causing these disturbances, in an attempt to generate some kind of misplaced sympathy with the public.
How quickly we forget the tragedy of just last month in Tucson, when a Federal Judge and Congressional aide were killed, along with four others, and a Congresswoman, who once served in this building, was critically wounded. Our public servants work hard to serve Arizona and make it a better place. Many were shaken by the incident in Tucson and pledged a new civility. It is my hope that members of the public also commit to that pledge and refrain from hostile actions that ignite such incidences.