PHOENIX - A state Senator says not only does a state Senate building “blacklist” exist, but he knows who’s on it.
On Thursday, a prominent immigration activist was charged with trespassing after walking into the state Senate building.
Now some are accusing the Senate President is abusing his power by banning community activists from the public building.
Salvador Reza is a well-known community activist and opponent of several bills crafted by Senate President Russell Pearce to include SB1070.
On Thursday afternoon, State Senator Steve Gallardo told me Reza came to the Senate building to meet him to fill-out paperwork for a planned protest and described what happened next.
“As he walked in he was stopped by DPS officers and he was told he was not allowed in the building. When I asked the DPS officers why Salvador was not able to come in they showed me the paper and said Senator Russell Pearce had barred Salvaor Reza from the Arizona senate.”
DPS told us officers were working “at the request of Senate personnel, officers informed Mr. Reza that he was not welcome in the building and requested that he leave the Senate premises.”
When Reza asked why he was not welcome and then refused to leave, they arrested him for trespassing.
For much of Friday, rumors began circulated around the Capitol that Pearce had drafted a list of people he wanted banned from the building.
The Senator issued a news release to deny the allegation writing. “Let me make it clear: there is no 'blacklist' of people who are not allowed in the Senate building."
State Senator David Schapira said on Friday, “That is in contrast of what he told me yesterday on the floor of the Arizona Senate.”
Schapira said not only did Pearce confirm there was a list, but told him how to get it.
“The Senate President made it sound like this list has existed for awhile, that there are multiple names on this list, and that he wasn't the first person to ban people from the State Senate. He made it sound like this is an old tradition that's been around for a long time and suggested that I get a hold of Jeff Trapp, head of security, and get the list," he said.
He said security provided him with six names to include Reza’s.
I asked, “They are all Hispanic?”
Schapira said to the best of his knowledge they are.
Then I asked, “and they are all community activists?”
Schapira said he believes they are.
“I think this is a serious concern”, said Gallardo who told me he wrote a letter to Pearce asking for an explanation and plans to address the matter on Monday on the Senate floor.
Schapira and Gallardo are Democrats, Pearce is a Republican, but they tell me their concern centers on principle, not partisan politics.
Schapira said if even one Arizona citizen is not allowed in the public building, than one day anyone who might be, “on the opposite side of any issue of this Senate President could also be banned.”
Lawmakers are now trying to figure out if Pearce even has the authority to ban people from the building.
Reza supporters held a vigil outside the 4th Avenue Jail on Thursday, the night he was arrested.
Sylvia Herrera told us, “When we try to voice our opinion we’re being targeted and singled out”.
George Pauk and his wife Jane said they were there because they feel Reza’s arrest is a form of harassment, “and to indicate that this should not be happening in our community”.
Jane believes Reza has the right to be in the Senate building adding, “It’s our capitol and if we have business there we have a perfect right to walk into the capitol”.
Her husband told ABC15 they are supporting Reza because they believe “he is trying to make democracy work for everybody. He’s a brilliant leader who is resented by people like Russell Pearce.”
George Pauk also said he thinks police arrest activists like Reza as a form of harassment.
“They do it to harass them, whoever’s point of view that’s different then let’s say the Sheriff’s or the speaker of the Senate Russell Pearce. These are bullies and they go after minorities one after another and they’ll come after us too some day," he said.
The older Caucasian male pauses for a second before he added, “If you don’t protest and stop this now, you’ll be next.”