12 Oct

Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin’s Free Speech

Free speech is everything to the media. Even though some media outlets abuse that right and publish ill-gotten or false materials; overall, it’s about reporting the truth. As every good reporter knows, sometimes the truth rubs people the wrong way, leading to altercations. Read more: Village Voice Media | Wikipedia

For Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, their stories landed them in jail. While being jailed for a story doesn’t sound that terrible, it was the surrounding circumstances that made their story such a shock. For decades, Lacey and Larkin battled the ultra-conservative viewpoints of many Arizona natives. Usually, because they ignored the truth about their community leaders’ side dealings.

The biggest opponent that Lacey and Larkin ever stood up to was Sheriff Arpaio. For years, Sheriff Arpaio got away with repeated abuse of power. Everyone else in the Phoenix area believed Arpaio to be benign. Thanks to Lacey and Larkin many communities began speaking out against Arpaio.

Eventually, Arpaio began paying attention to Lacey, Larkin, and their paper Phoenix New Times. As Arpaio made attempts to stop their stories, New Times continued to publish the truth about his behavior. Their investigation into his activities eventually led to their arrests, which was illegal.

Since the early days of his career, Arpaio named himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff”. That was code for racist and abusive law enforcer. Phoenix New Times posted numerous stories about the sheriff mistreating jail inmates; some even dying because of the mistreatment. Lacey and Larkin also talked about his repetitive and systematic persecution and detention of local Latinos.

Enraged by their stories, Arpaio sent his “Selective Enforcement Unit” to arrest Lacey and Larkin. If the word “selective” in that title seems a little weird that’s because it is. There are a lot of hushed-rumors surrounding the Selective Enforcement Unit. Yet, these armed deputies were allowed to force Lacey and Larkin from their homes.

Ordinarily, law enforcement can’t investigate people with permission. Sheriff Arpaio bypassed the usual procedure with forfeit grand jury subpoenas he got from a vengeful prosecutor. With those warrants, Arpaio tried to get the identities of New Time’s writers, editors, and readers.

Lacey and Larkin didn’t stay in jail for long. When the public found out about their arrests, they were released immediately. Later, they sued Maricopa County and won $3.75 million. The settled was donated to migrant-rights and civic-rights groups.

Read more: Michael Lacey | Twitter

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