TUCSON, Arizona — This weekend, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency and a week-long curfew in response to the George Floyd solidarity protests that have spread to almost every major city in the United States.
He says it is about public safety, but it is not. It is a nod to his most fervent supporters: white anti-immigrant conservative voters and Trump supporters.
When COVID-19 tore through our Latinx, Black and Indigenous communities, Governor Ducey intentionally sidestepped multiple opportunities to keep us safe. He provided minimal enforcement for a successful execution of social distancing, failed hundreds of thousands of Arizona families with a swift processing of unemployment benefits and prematurely opened the state.
But now, when people are risking their lives during the pandemic to demand justice and accountability for police brutality, Ducey is focused on protecting the police who in the last few days have taken into custody 114 protesters —including three who are undocumented— and that have threatened journalists with jail for covering the protests.
The governor is testing the limits of his power to build a police state, when what we need now more than ever is to build a state of care. We need to stop the police and ICE from traumatizing our communities. We need appropriate, affordable medical care for everyone. We need an eviction moratorium for small business owners who are unable to pay rent. And we need to protect the residents most impacted by providing them with direct cash assistance programs, including to undocumented families.
Instead, with his swift executive action, he has shown us that he is more interested in policing Black bodies and is using these protests as an excuse for state violence against them.
We know that this is not about public safety, because just two weeks ago, when majority-white protesters stormed the state capitol demanding the state reopen despite the ongoing risks of the pandemic, the governor quickly kowtowed to their demands without policing protesters, calls for curfews or arrests.
Never mind that Arizona is currently at an upward climb of hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19. Or that the Navajo Nation released heartbreaking reports showing an increase in the number of deaths and infections in their community. When that information was released, Governor Ducey did not even spare a tweet. We still have 175,000 families who have been denied unemployment since February, waiting to find out if any benefits will come to their already strained households.
These are the issues Governor Ducey needs to address if he truly cares about public safety. Ducey and the state legislature could actually help all the citizens of Arizona by passing a People’s Bailout.
Instead, this executive order shows they are only interested in policing Black and Brown bodies.
I am hopeful that mayors like mine —Mayor Regina Romero— mostly refused to cooperate in the continued criminalization of Black, Brown and Indigenous bodies during a global pandemic.
Elected officials all over Arizona have a choice now and we are counting on them to stand with our communities, protect our right to protest and heed our demands for true bodily and economic safety.
We must show Governor Ducey and the rest of the world watching the movement taking place in our country that Black Lives Matter.
Grecia Lima is the National Political Director for Community Change Action, a national social justice organization that builds power with low-income communities, especially communities of color. Twitter: @GreciaLima.