An Arrest that Led to the Launch of Frontera Fund
On Oct. 18, 2007, the armed deputies of Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, knocked the doors of journalists Jim Larkin and Mike Lacey and arrested them. The executives of Village Voice Media were forcibly moved into SUVs that were found to be with dark tinted glass and Mexican number plates. Joe Arpaio was employing his Selective Enforcement Unit to arrest the journalists and booked them into separate jails. The entire act was carried out by Joe who was notorious for his misdeeds – that are exposed by Phoenix New Times. The newspaper also featured his role in creating anti-Mexican fear-mongering in Arizona.
It should be noted that while many mainstream news outlets bunked the activities of Joe Arpaio, Phoenix New Times followed up with him and revealed many financial irregularities and mismanagement that happened around the Sherriff’s office. It also featured the retaliatory abuses against the critics, ill-treatments inside the jails including deaths, substandard health conditions in his prisons, racial violations towards Latinos, and more. Both Larkin and Lacey were arrested for exposing how the Sherriff was damaging the constitution through his ill-minded activities through a procedure set by his office.
The County office’s grand jury subpoenas started demanding the personal IP address and browsing history of editors, writers, and even readers of newspapers. Both the journalists wrote about the new rule imposed by the Sherriff instead of following it. Due to the widespread protests, they were released from detention within 24 hours. Both of them decided to fight against the abuse of power that cornered their First Amendment rights. In the 2012 verdict, the Ninth Circuit Court wrote that the issue is considered as a clear breach of the First Amendment rights of both the journalists and observed that the arrest was without any offense that can lead to detention.
Additionally, the appellate court ordered a $3.7 million settlement by the County to the journalists in 2013. The journalists used the settlement amount to address the civil rights issues and racial abuses in Arizona and set up the Frontera Fund. Larkin spoke out that he learned to help the less fortunate from childhood, and he pointed out that Mexican immigrants are the neediest community in Arizona. Lacey and Larkin started funding various groups working on Hispanic civil rights issues in Arizona from the fund. They say that Sheriff Joe Arpaio creates a level of fear in the Mexican-American border and making even Americans tortured.
The Continuing Saga of Lacey and Larkin
If the story of Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were ever made into a movie, it would be considered too far-fetched to be believed — two left-wing college dropouts start an alternative newspaper called the Phoenix New Times and expose an angry, vindictive sheriff committing multiple acts of malfeasance.
In 1970, when aspiring journalists Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin dropped out of Arizona State to devote themselves full time to pestering, harassing, and annoying the powers that be, they quickly zeroed in on Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The self-styled “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” was exposed as a bully, a blowhard, and in the words of one of his senior deputies, “a media whore.” Arpaio was legendary for not only violating the rights of anyone in Maricopa county who even appeared to be Hispanic but actually arranging to be televised doing it. It was only a matter of time before these two forces collided. On a fall night in 2007, detectives driving unmarked SUVs with darkened windows and Mexican license plates descended on the pair, placed them under arrest, and delivered them to the Maricopa County jail. In the false arrest lawsuit that followed, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted to settle out of court for $3.75 million.
The pair used the money to create the Lacey and Larkin Frontera Fund, an organization offering financial support to non-profit groups dealing with migrant civil rights. They turned ownership of the Phoenix New Times over to senior management and embarked on a new project — using the power of the internet to maintain First Amendment advocacy by using an online periodical called Front Page Confidential.