Bernie Sanders Correct in Criticizing Sheriff Joe Arpaio


Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s conduct in Maricopa County, Arizona, is a national disgrace that should be declared unconstitutional and should be stopped. Jane and Bernie Sanders should be commended for shining a light on Arpaio’s abuses, from racial profiling to neglectful, inhumane treatment of people in his custody. These abuses are un-American and should no longer be allowed in our society.

Jane Sanders visited Arpaio’s “Tent City” jail on Monday to shine a light on the inhumane conditions those in custody live under, including many undocumented families. Sheriff Arpaio wanted to meet with Ms. Sanders and she agreed, pressing “America’s Toughest Sheriff” about racial profiling and the harsh conditions forced upon inmates in the “Tent City” where temperatures can get as high as 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bernie Sanders spoke about Sheriff Arpaio in a campaign speech following the encounter with his wife Jane, calling his behavior “unconscionable” and stating, among other things:

“Why don’t you pick on people who have the power to fight back?”

“She asked him about racial profiling, and he didn’t have an answer,” Sanders said. “She asked him about conditions in Tent City and other abuses that he has perpetuated, and he didn’t have an answer. You know what, he cannot have an answer, because what he is doing is un-American and uncivilized.”

“It’s easy for bullies like Sheriff Arpaio to pick on people who have no power, but if I’m elected president, the president of the United States does have the power,” he then added later. “Watch out, Joe!”.

Sheriff Arpaio’s actions have cost local taxpayers more than $140 million in legal fees as he has been found guilty of racial profiling and his jails have been declared unconstitutional. Further, he has been accused of a wide range of offenses, including, but not limited to: abuse of power, failure to investigate sex crimes, improper clearance of cases, unlawful enforcement of immigration laws, and misuse of funds.

Sheriff Arpaio is a relic from a bygone era, clearly on the wrong side of history, akin to Bull Connor who directed fire hoses and attack dogs on civil rights advocates in the 1960s. Not surprisingly, Sheriff Arpaio has endorsed Donald Trump for president. If the GOP front-runner wants to seriously pivot to a general election audience, he could start with denouncing the brutal tactics of Sheriff Arpaio. If the citizens of Maricopa County are unable to reign in a sheriff that is violating our constitution and basic human rights, then the federal government should step in and enforce the rights guaranteed to all of us under the United States Constitution.

Anthony Johnson

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.