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Charges dropped against UU arrested in Phoenix protest

First arrestees found ‘not guilty’; charges dropped against second group
By Donald E. Skinner

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UUA President Peter Morales and the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, minister of the UU Congregation of Phoenix, block the entrance to the Maricopa County jail protesting the passage of Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration legislation in Phoenix on July 29. (Dea Brayden)

Charges were dropped December 15 against four people, including one Unitarian Universalist, who were arrested in Phoenix in late July in a religious witness against Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration measure SB 1070.

Mar Cárdenas, South Bay ministry team coordinator for the UU Church of San Diego, was one of the four, along with Timothy Paynter, Linda Stenholm, and Kelley Hale. They were among 29 people who were arrested July 29 in downtown Phoenix as they blocked a street and a Maricopa County jail entrance in opposition to SB 1070. More than 150 UUs traveled to Phoenix for the action of nonviolent civil disobedience called the National Day of Non-Compliance.

Court appearances for many of the other arrestees are not scheduled until January or later. UUA President Peter Morales and the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, minister of the UU Congregation of Phoenix in Paradise Valley, Ariz., are among those waiting. Two other people arrested in July, Mark Williamson and Maria Vasquez, were found not guilty on December 9 in the first cases to come before the court.

Cárdenas said that no reason was given for dropping the charges. She said that she had mixed feelings about the dismissal. “I should be rejoicing, but I’m finding that difficult,” she said. “I was basically looking forward to making a public statement. The whole reason we chose to go to trial was to bring more attention to this issue.”

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