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Sheriff Joe Arpaio summons the ghost of Bull Connor

Despite a judge’s ruling to delay enforcement of key provisions in Arizona’s notorious anti-immigrant law hours before it was scheduled to take effect, protesters descended on Phoenix yesterday. Hundreds blocked a street near City Hall and were confronted by officers in riot gear, while others beat on the metal door of the county jail. More than 50 protesters were arrested by the end of the day.

Hard line Arizona officials were no less deterred by the ruling as well. Gov. Jan Brewer and State Senator Russell Pearce both called it a “bump” in the road, while Sheriff Joe Arpaio went ahead with one of his controversial crime raids targeting illegal immigrants. But in a moment that should only bolster the resolve of those determined to fight this law nonviolently, Arpaio also told the Associated Press that he is “not going to put up with any civil disobedience.”

As if comparisons to the Civil Rights Movement weren’t already strong enough, such a statement practically summons the ghost of Alabama’s infamous law enforcer Bull Connor, whose aggressive tactics against peaceful demonstrators backfired when broadcast on national television.

But rather than wonder if Arpaio is so blinded by power that he would make this same mistake, protesters should be asking themselves if they are up to the challenge of remaining nonviolent if he does?

So far they have shown remarkable determination.