Roxana Orrell, a lawyer and executive officer with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), was arrested Thursday in Phoenix while acting as an NLG Legal Observer® for a group of individuals protesting the immigration policies of Sheriff Arpaio. Witnesses of the arrest indicated that Sheriff’s Deputies appeared to target Orrell, who was standing behind the crowd and videotaping the arrest of Sunita Patel, another Legal Observer®.
“The arrest of the Guild Legal Observers® is just a continuation of Arpaio’s campaign of harassment,” said Carol Sobel, co-chair of the Guild’s Mass Defense Committee. “Apparently, Arpaio thinks that if he arrests the Legal Observers®, no one will be there to witness his unlawful actions. We have been arrested, shot with projectiles, hit with batons and pepper-sprayed at protests from Washington, D.C. to Miami to Los Angeles and we are still here to document misconduct.”
Sheriff Arpaio had announced he would conduct sweeps as part of his campaign to target and terrorize immigrant neighborhoods, regardless of the federal court’s injunction issued the prior day against SB 1070. In response to Arpaio’s plans, a group of demonstrators protested outside the Sheriff’s building. As they were gathered in the area, a garage door opened and officers in riot gear came out from the building. The officers arrested one woman closest to the entrance to the building, and then reached into the crowd to snatch Orrell.
Brett Beeler, a UCLA law student, witnessed the entire event. He was approximately five feet from Orrell and Patel when they were grabbed. Beeler saw numerous individuals standing closer to the police, but believes that the deputies targeted Orrell and Patel because they were wearing the green Legal Observer® hats. The two NLG Legal Observers® have been charged with obstruction of a highway and failure to obey a lawful order. They are expected to be arraigned late Thursday night.
Numerous other protesters have also been unjustly arrested, and a lack of available translators has caused delays in processing. The National Lawyers Guild deployed Legal Observers® in Phoenix for the large protests against SB 1070 in April and May 2010 as part of its Mass Defense Committee. Last week, the National Lawyers Guild trained approximately two dozen local activists in Phoenix to participate in the program. Orrell was heading the effort this week. For each of the major demonstrations in Phoenix this year, the NLG has provided law students, lawyers, and legal workers to ride the buses from Los Angeles with the immigrant workers coming to protest.
The National Lawyers Guild, founded in 1937, is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.