Immigrant Rights Leader Accused Of Conspiracy At Arizona Capitol Protest

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 7:51am
Updated: Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 3:00pm
(Photo courtesy of Rachel Sherman)
Puente members protested outside the executive tower at the Arizona State Capitol as anti-immigration bills were delivered to Gov. Ducey.
Puente Arizona
Puente is a migrants' rights activist group.

Five members of the group Puente were arrested at the state capitol on Wednesday while protesting bills that take a tough stance toward immigrants. One of those arrested was the group’s leader, Carlos Garcia, who was not involved in the act of civil disobedience but is being accused of planning the action.

The four female activists who blocked the doors leading to Gov. Doug Ducey’s office in the Capitol’s executive tower were trying to send a message of opposition to a series of state immigration bills.

They were calling on Gov. Doug Ducey to veto a bill that would repeal an earlier law that allows incarcerated immigrants with deportation orders to be released to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for deportation after they complete half of their prison sentence.

The four activists were arrested for their act of civil disobedience. But so was Garcia, even though he wasn’t physically blocking the entrance with the others.

Garcia was accused of conspiracy to commit criminal trespass, according to Department of Public Safety Captain Damon Cecil.

“He may have not actively sat in front of the door and blocked the entryway in– but he helped organize it, plan it and helped facilitate that criminal act to happen,” Cecil said. “So that is why he was arrested.”

Cecil said the protest endangered those inside. All five individuals were booked into the 4th Avenue Jail.

While Cecil said all the arrestees were charged with misdemeanors, in a press release sent out on Wednesday evening, Puente spokeswoman Francisca Porchas said Garcia was being charged with a felony conspiracy charge. On Thursday a source with the Maricopa County Superior Court said the charge was a misdemeanor. 

Lawyer Ray Ybarra Maldonado’s office will represent Garcia. Ybarra Maldonado said Garcia’s arrest seemed ridiculous.

“They are targeting the leadership of this movement in the hopes of discouraging others of getting involved and doing similar actions,” Ybarra Maldonado said. “It is not something I would expect from a just state, but when you look at Arizona and the things we have been doing for the past decade, it certainly fits our reputation.”

These were not the only arrests on the Capitol this week. When angry voters flooded the state Capitol on Monday to denounce last week’s troubled Presidential Preference Election, one individual, Jonathan McCrae, was accused of disrupting proceedings and was arrested.

While McCrae was being searched, an open safety pin on his clothing pricked a trooper. McCrae was charged with felony aggravated assault on an officer.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated with information about the charge against Carlos Garcia.

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