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Arizona minister guilty in SB 1070 protest case

The Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray convicted of misdemeanor for actions protesting anti-illegal immigration law in 2010.
By Michelle Bates Deakin
8.5.11

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Susan Frederick-Gray under arrest

The Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray was arrested July 29, 2010, in Phoenix while protesting Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law SB 1070. She was found guilty by a Phoenix judge on August 2, 2011. (Standing on the Side of Love)

The Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray has been found guilty by an Arizona judge for willfully failing to comply with a police order. Frederick-Gray, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix and head of the Arizona Immigration Ministry, had been part of a human chain blocking the entrance to the Maricopa County Fourth Avenue Jail on July 29, 2010, in protest of Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law, SB 1070.

Judge David Seyer, of the Maricopa County Justice Court, announced the verdict on August 2. In addition to Frederick-Gray, he found nine other activists guilty. Four of them had been physically chained together with Frederick-Gray. Five others formed a human chain by linking arms in front of the jail. Sentencing is scheduled for August 23.

The verdict came two days after the conclusion of the trial of Unitarian Universalist Association President Peter Morales in the same court. Morales was tried along with Salvador Reza, a lead organizer with the immigrant rights group Puente, and two others. Sayer did not announce a verdict in the Morales case when he found Frederick-Gray guilty.

Frederick-Gray was unruffled by the guilty verdict. “For me, it hasn’t been about being found guilty or not guilty. It’s been about bringing attention to what I see as human rights abuses, as legislation like SB 1070 writes racial profiling into law. It’s always been about bringing attention to those injustices and standing up for human rights and human dignity,” she said.

One year ago, 29 Unitarian Universalists, including eight ministers, were arrested in Phoenix for acts of civil disobedience protesting SB 1070. They were among 150 UUs, many from out of state, who came to Phoenix for actions in support of immigrant families on July 29, 2010, the day the law went into effect. Opponents of SB 1070 say it encourages racial profiling by police, although a federal judge issued an injunction that blocked several controversial provisions of the law.

UUs were among hundreds of people who swarmed into downtown streets, blocking traffic at midday in the vicinity of the Fourth Avenue Jail and the offices of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio, who calls himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” favors legislation targeting undocumented immigrants and has launched workplace raids and authorized the arrest and deportation of thousands of undocumented people.

“SB 1070 and similar legislation talk a lot about safety,” Frederick-Gray said, “but those kinds of laws don’t make us safer. They destroy the relationships of trust between law enforcement and the community. They target the most vulnerable people in our communities. Not drug cartels. Not dangerous criminals. But they target working people. And it tears apart what’s most essential in any safe society—and that’s family, neighborhood, and the bonds of trust within community.”

Frederick-Gray said that she was very proud of the work UUs did on July 29, 2010. “I believe in making a clear public protest against SB 1070, against the dehumanization of people of color in our country,” she said. “We expressed our highest moral principles and we put our own freedom on the line to stand up for justice.”

In her role as head of the Arizona Immigration Ministry, Frederick-Gray is involved in the planning of next year’s UUA “Justice General Assembly” in Phoenix, June 20–24.

“I’m excited for Justice GA as an opportunity to make an even bigger public witness statement about how the rhetoric around immigration in this country creates human rights abuses,” she said. “I’m excited about Justice GA as an opportunity for Unitarian Universalists to publicly witness for our core values that all people have worth and dignity, and that we are one human family.”


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