Rev. Al threatens to fight Arizona's new immigration law

Jose Peralta

April 28, 2010

The Rev. Al Sharpton yesterday threatened to fight Arizona's tough new immigration law with civil disobedience -- and welcomed the prospect of getting arrested in the process.

Sharpton compared himself to the Freedom Riders of the 1960s, who rode interstate buses in mixed-race groups to protest racial segregation, saying he and his allies would become "Freedom Walkers," striding through the streets of Arizona without identification to show their opposition to the law.

"We will walk down the streets with no identification and submit ourselves to arrest,"

Sharpton said during a rally in lower Manhattan.

"We cannot sit by and allow people to be arbitrarily and unilaterally picked off as suspects because of the color of their skin."

State Sen. José Peralta (D-Queens) and New York clergy members joined Sharpton in opposing the law, which Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed Friday, requiring police to determine whether someone is legal if the officer has "reasonable suspicion" to doubt that person's status.

Sharpton said he would wait to see whether the expected legal challenges to the new bill are successful before rallying people to protest in Arizona.

The law is expected to take effect in July or August.

"It is a 21st-century civil-rights issue," he said.

"This governor must feel the national mobilization and know that we're prepared to do what is necessary to break unjust laws."