A singing crowd forced Sheriff Joe Arpaio out of a forum at Arizona State University this week:
PHOENIX — A night aimed at discussing First Amendment issues with the controversial Maricopa County Sheriff ended with protesters disrupting the session and Sheriff Joe Arpaio walking out. … After 45 minutes of questioning Monday night, a group of protesters started to sing and chant in the back of the room, interrupting Sheriff Arpaio’s response to questions about illegal immigration. … “Is this legitimate?” the protesters sang, to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody, a popular ballad by Queen.
Was the action constructive? Or did protesters miss a chance to query the notorious sheriff on the inhumane conditions he maintains at the county jail, his shackling of female inmates giving birth, or his immigration sweeps that even the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency finds excessive?
In his 16-year reign, Joe Arpaio has faced heated commentary both locally and nationally for his abuses. Nothing has changed. A Q&A would not have accomplished much in this case. Sometimes depriving someone of a platform says much more than a tightly worded comment at the event microphone.
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“Sometimes depriving…” that is true. However, the event was constructed for the purpose of edifying journalism students and the little I know about who the singers were is that they were not journalism students. Do students from outside of the journalism department have the right to dictate the agenda? If the impetus for the action came from within a group of journalism students and other students joined in, then, great, that is appropriate. I don’t know if that is what happened.