A debate over racial and gender-based preference programs in Arizona has grown increasingly volatile as backers of the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative cry foul over opposition efforts led by a group from Michigan.
The Goldwater Institute released a statement June 23 decrying the practices of a group referring to itself as By Any Means Necessary. The Goldwater Institute charges that the Michigan groups members have provided misleading information to voters stating that the initiative is supported by the Ku Klux Klan.
These people are not interested in reasoned debate, said Goldwater Institute attorney Clint Bolick. Their name says it all."
The Goldwater release includes links to videos that have been posted on the popular Web site you.tube.com that show interactions between the campaigns hired petition circulators and their opponents. On one such video taken on
in Tempe, a man signing a petition was told repeatedly that he is supporting a racist initiative designed to re-segregate state universities. The interaction lasted for almost two minutes before the man blurted out Stop harassing me.Enjoy your white privilege! was the response, as the person who signed the petition crossed the street.
Another video taken outside Chase Field showed protestors circling around a signature-gatherer and telling passers-by not to sign the petition because it is backed by the KKK.
Max McPhail, a spokesman for the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative, said the opposition efforts are having the desired impact. Obviously that is going to affect someone signing a petition, if three people come up with a video camera screaming that they (individuals signing the petition) are racist.
Police were called to the initiatives office on
for three consecutive days starting June 23 when workers became fearful of violence from picketing protestors, said McPhail.
But Donna Stern, treasurer of the By Any Means Necessary Committee to Stop the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative, said supporters of what she considers a clearly racist proposal are twisting the facts.
We arent threatening anyone, said Stern, who lives in Michigan. We are being threatened. One of the groups volunteers was put into a headlock by a signature-gatherer, she said.
And another posted video shows a signature-gatherer using profanity, screaming for security and asking opponents to leave her alone before lifting her dress in a sign of contempt for a cameraman.
The main supporter of the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative is Ward Connerly, a black man who founded the Sacramento-based American Civil Rights Initiative to counter affirmative-action programs.In April, Connerly held his first press conference on the initiative at the Arizona state Capitol where he declared affirmative-action policies as inconsistent with the American dream.
Connerly said programs intended to offset historical oppression of minority groups are not helping. He said they are only succeeding at fostering racial animosity by selecting people on the basis of race.
Its morally wrong. Its poisonous socially, said Connerly, who has been successful with similar drives in California, Washington, and most recently, Michigan.
Stern said her group has brought in about 20 volunteers to defeat the proposal, and the effort has attracted many more at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University.
Stern was unable to produce evidence the Ku Klux Klan supports the initiative or that the white-supremacist group even exists in Arizona, but she believes strongly that it does on both counts, she said.
McPhail said the Secretary of States Office has been notified of the activities of the opposition committee and supporters are consulting with attorneys on future procedure.