In first public remarks on unrest, Ducey focuses on 'rule of law,' not community's grief (2024)

Maria Polletta,Andrew Oxford|Arizona Republic

Across the country, prominent Republican leaders have joined the chorus of voices denouncing the treatment of George Floyd, an unarmed black man whose death while handcuffed byMinneapolis police has sparked protests throughout the U.S.

On Thursday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee called Floyd's death "unacceptable" and "heartbreaking," deeming itpart of "a very disturbing trend" after speaking withblackcommunity leaders and law enforcement. "We have to be committed to recognizing and calling out police brutality where it exists," he said.

On Friday,Texas Gov. Greg Abbott described the Minneapolis events as"a consequence of poor police work," saying Floyd's death "should not have happened."

And Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine called Floyd's treatment "horrific," making a point to say "to every African American man, woman and child: You are valued and an essential part of this community."

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's remarks — released Saturday morning, after nearly a week of national unrest and two increasingly charged nights of local demonstrations— struck a noticeably different tone.

His 157-word statement never mentioned Floyd's death. Nor did it mention the death of Dion Johnson, whose fatal shooting by an Arizona Department of Public Safety officer Monday also contributed to Friday night protests that gave way to chaos and broken windows.

He did not decry police brutality, even as an exception or the work of a few bad apples, instead complimenting law enforcement on their "professional and valiant work." And he did not mention having met with or requested input from advocacy groups or minority leaders, instead saying he'd personally called the Phoenix and Tucson police chiefs.

“In the state of Arizona, we will always respect the First Amendment rights of citizens to peacefully assemble and make their voices heard,” he said.

“We will not, however, tolerate rioting, looting, violence, destruction of property or any behavior that endangers the safety or rights of other individuals.…Here, we will enforce the rule of law."

Advocate: Ducey missing 'deeper hurt'

Tiera Rainey, a member of Black Lives Matter Tucson, said the tenor of Ducey’s statement came as no surprise.

“I think the governor has always made it clear that he values law and order over the everyday person, specifically marginalized people — black people, incarcerated people,” she said.

“Less than a few weeks ago, it was a predominantly white crowd protesting at the Capitol with weapons, and no statement like this was made,” she said, referring to demonstrations against Ducey's statewide stay-at-home order.

“He’s made it very clear who he thinks law enforcement should be utilized against.”

Friday's protest in Phoenix had begun with a peaceful vigil forJohnson atEastlake Parkeast of downtown. Johnson's family is calling for an investigation into his death, including the release of any reports and video that might shedlight on the struggle police say occurred before the shooting.

A march towarddowntown followed, culminatingin a demonstration outside Phoenix police headquarters, where protesters chanted in memory ofJohnson and Floyd.

Police sent the crowd running west back through downtown after some protesters set off fireworks. Some in the crowd turned on the nearby federal courthouse, the Arizona Federal Theatre and Phoenix City Hall and proceeded to smash into buildings around downtown.

During Thursday's downtown protest, police had used rubberbullets and pepper spray on protesters who had refusedto leave the area.

Though the demonstrations clearly sought to draw attention to police brutality, Rainey said Ducey missed the mark in interpreting the protestsas "simply a rebellion against law enforcement."

"The reality is thatthis is capturing the deeper hurt andcollective mourning of what has been happening—this series of black folks who just lost their lives," she said."This is also about economic hurt."

The Governor's Office did not respond to a request for comment.

Analyst: Statement in line with Arizona history

Republican political consultant Kevin DeMenna took a more generous tack, saying it was significant Ducey was"venturing into the dialogue" at all.

"Calibrating risk is what governors do," DeMennasaid, adding that everything they say "in the age of the internet and social media is captured, measured and weighed, so there’s little spontaneity."

"When they do step up on something like this— particularly in Arizona— it's a noteworthy departure," he said.

DeMenna drew a distinction between the history of race relations in a "relatively young" state like Arizona and the East Coast or deep South.

Without looking at that historical and demographic context,"Doug Ducey’s remarks might seem a little discordant with the rest of the nation," he said. "But I think when you do consider these issues in Arizona, they’re pretty well on target."

He said African Americans represent 5% or less of voters in most Arizona legislative districts, and the state's larger population of Hispanic voters has made immigration "the dominant racial issue."

"Any analysis should recognize that we are not Chicago, Minneapolis, Baltimore on so many levels," he said. "I don't think that makes this (situation) any less significant, but I do think that outrage over national issues … manifests itself very different by state and region."

Nonetheless, state Sen. Martín Quezada argued thatleaders who focus solely on vandalism in this political moment without acknowledging Arizonans’ frustrations with policing risk adding to the feeling that “nobody is going to listen.”

“Right now, the feeling I get and a lot of my community members get (is), they’re going to allow us to be mad for a few days and then it’ll be too much,” said Quezada, D-Phoenix.

He said the status quo isn't working when it comes to law enforcement, and officials need to make“serious inroads” on police brutality and the other systemic issues if they don't want to "deal with property damage, with rioting, with looting,” he said.

Right now, “I want the focus to be on the loss of life (at the hands of police),” he said.

“Those lives have meaning.”

Reach the reporters atmaria.polletta@arizonarepublic.comor Follow themon Twitter@mpolletta and @andrewboxford.

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In first public remarks on unrest, Ducey focuses on 'rule of law,' not community's grief (2024)
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