A planned protest disrupted the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday as citizens loudly voiced concern about Sheriff Joe Arpaio and an expensive settlement for a jail death case.
The meeting was shut down after several speakers continued to criticize the board and call for action against the sheriff. The protest eventually transitioned into group prayer and song right in the middle of the meeting chambers.
One man dressed in a robe walked down the aisle and called himself “King Arpaio."
After several minutes, the supervisors left the room and adjourned the meeting.
"In the chairman's view, the board could not continue its legal activity because of the commotion created by the citizens that were there," said County Board of Supervisors spokesperson Cari Gerchick.
Things started to escalate as the board took public comments related to the $3.25 million dollar settlement for the jail death of Deborah Braillard .
Braillard, a diabetic, suffered a horrific death in 2005 after she was denied insulin and medical care for three days in county jail.
The protest was by the Citizens for a Better Arizona, an anti-Arpaio group. Members of the group told ABC15 they were at the meeting to speak out because of Braillard’s death.
They also took the opportunity to express their anger over hundreds of improperly investigated sex crimes by the sheriff’s office.
Before the board, speakers specifically cited ABC15’s stories related to the Braillard case.
One woman said, “MCSO is broken and Sheriff Joe Arpaio is incompetent."
She added, “We ask that the Board of Supervisors will put the taxpayers and victims ahead of Sheriff Arpaio’s poor record of management."
The protest continued Wednesday night when a group of about three dozen people stood outside the County Supervisors building in downtown Phoenix.
The group lit candles, said prayers and sang a song as part of their efforts to get Arpaio out of office.
"What will happen to him? Will he be deported? What will happen to our family?" said Melisa Gomez. Her father was recently arrested by deputies and will have to go to court in a few weeks.
"We don't have the money for an attorney, and this kind of thing is happening to thousands of people, especially in Arizona. The sheriff has got to go," she said.
Arpaio and county officials said they could not comment on the Braillard case because of a court order.
The sheriff also declined to be interviewed about the protest.
Instead the sheriff released a written statement:
These protestors gave a second rate comedy act in front of the Board today. Not only did they make themselves out to be a laughing stock, they disrupted the government process with their politically-motivated circus, impeding yet again the important work this Board of Supervisors wishes to accomplish.
Because the protest shut down the meeting, the board did not officially vote on the settlement. However, it did receive preliminary approval in a vote taken during executive session on Oct. 1.
Supervisors will have to reschedule the vote to make the settlement official.
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