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UUA president sentenced to time served for protest

Morales calls his determination to fight Arizona immigration law stronger than ever.
By Donald E. Skinner
8.29.11

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UUA President Peter Morales

UUA President Peter Morales (center) addressed a television camera before his civil disobedience trial in Phoenix. (Dea Brayden)

Thirteen people, including Unitarian Universalist Association President the Rev. Peter Morales, were sentenced Aug. 23 to a day in jail for their acts of nonviolent civil disobedience in Phoenix on July 29, 2010.

Because all were jailed for a number of hours at the time of their arrest, Judge David Seyer gave them credit for that time and said that no additional jail time would be required. Neither did he impose any fines or community service requirements.

Those sentenced included Morales; the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, minister of the UU Congregation of Phoenix and head of the Arizona Immigration Ministry; and Salvador Reza, leader of the human rights group Puente Arizona.

Morales issued the following statement after sentencing. “While my trial has finally ended, my determination to oppose Arizona's SB 1070 and the inhumane practices of Sheriff Joe Arpaio is stronger than ever.

“As people of faith, we are called to oppose injustice and help protect the most vulnerable among us. We cannot turn a blind eye to the inhumane immigration enforcement practices of Sheriff Arpaio, nor should we accept similar policies in other parts of our country.

“We Unitarian Universalists will continue to stand on the side of love against such legislation and the anti-immigrant sentiment it represents. We look forward to an opportunity to witness publicly against such injustices at our Justice General Assembly in Phoenix in 2012.”

On July 29, 2010, several hundred UUs protested in Phoenix with immigrant groups against that state’s anti-immigrant measure SB 1070, which went into effect that day. Twenty-nine UUs, including eight ministers, were arrested along with other immigrant activists.

With Tuesday’s sentencing, all of those arrested have now had their day in court. Several chose to pay fines. Many other cases were dismissed. None served jail time beyond the initial few hours after their arrests. All of the charges stemming from the July 29 actions were misdemeanors, including failing to comply with a police order and obstructing a public thoroughfare. The maximum sentence would have been four months in jail, a $750 fine, and two years of probation.

Morales, who attended the hearing by phone, told the Associated Press after his sentencing, “The sentence was as lenient as it could be without dismissing the charges. So I believe that the judge was clearly moved and affected by the character and the idealism and the comportment of the defendants.”

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