It took six years and one controversial immigration law for Andrew Jackson Jihad to get around to doing what most folk-punk bands might consider their bread and butter: the protest song. Now they can’t seem to stop.
The band’s cri de coeur “Lady Liberty” made it onto a recent compilation CD assembled by Phoenix New Times Music Editor Martin Cizmar that includes 17 Arizona bands protesting the infamous SB 1070. The law requires Arizona police to question the immigration status of people stopped or held on other charges if they are suspected of being illegal immigrants.
Sean Bonnette, the Phoenix-based band’s 24-year-old guitarist, took some time before heading into work as a teen suicide hotline supervisor to explain what all the fuss is about. He also shared his feelings about Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the subject behind Andrew Jackson Jihad’s second protest song, “Sheriff Joe Is A Punk,” which will be featured on an upcoming four-band, four-song split EP The Chronicles of Joe Arpaio.
So talk about SB 1070. Why is it a big deal?
Well, I’m glad to hear you say it is a big deal because a lot of people wouldn’t think it’s a big deal, especially since the judge remanded it and took out the most detrimental parts of the law. But it basically mandated local law enforcement officers in Arizona to investigate a person’s immigration status if they have any reason to suspect that they might be an illegal immigrant. And the easiest way to suspect if someone is an illegal immigrant is to take a look and see what color their skin is. Even though they made it clear that that wouldn’t be a variable in whether they suspect someone, they just couldn’t help but do that. Speaking with an accent or poor English, or only being able to speak Spanish – you can’t help but take that into account. It’s unconstitutional and inhumane and it severs ties between immigrant communities and law enforcement. Crimes will go unreported if people are afraid they’ll be investigated and that can be a really huge problem, like in an instance of domestic violence.
Do you know any illegal immigrants?
I went to college `at Arizona State University` with quite a few. All pretty exceptional people.
Has the A Line In The Sand compilation been well received?
I would say it’s gone over well. It was featured on NPR and Pitchfork.com wrote about it. It was a good call on Martin Cizmar’s part to show the rest of the country that inside Arizona there is a really strong movement of musical artists who are very much opposed to the law. It ran the gamut from rappers to folk singers to punk rock and indie bands. It kind of helped the music community of Arizona save a little face.
What do you think about The Sound Strike initiative spearheaded by Rage Against the Machine that calls for bands to boycott Arizona as a means of protesting the law?
I think that approach actually makes a lot of sense. It worked back in the late ’80s, when the music and entertainment industry boycotted Arizona and got the state to recognize Martin Luther King Day as a national holiday. So it makes sense, but they’re thinking too small. We don’t need Rage Against the Machine and Conor Oberst boycotting Arizona. I mean, they can if they want. But if Tim McGraw or Kid Rock or Toby Keith said they wouldn’t come to Arizona, then we’d see some real change. That law would be flipped over in a matter of a day. I mean, I’m glad that all of those bands are showing their support of the Mexican people of Arizona by having benefit shows. Money from that big show in LA with Rage Against the Machine and Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band came back to support organizations here who are fighting the law. … I just don’t think they’re thinking big enough.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio has received a lot of publicity for his hard-line stance on enforcing immigration law, including use of a makeshift outdoors detention center called “Tent City.” You’ll soon be releasing an EP called The Chronicles of Joe Arpaio. Have you ever seen him around?
I saw him once in the mall. He was doing a signing or something. Man, he is a gross little troll of a man.
If you could sit down with him, how would the conversation go?
Well, I’m a pretty diplomatic guy. I would ask him his reasoning behind why he got the federal funding to basically do SB 1070 as a sheriff, to pull people over and ask for identification, racially profile people, and he would say the same stuff we’ve been hearing on the news, about how they’re draining our funds, blah, blah, blah. I would politely disagree and then I would ask him about the retarded guy living in Tent City `Jail` and all the miscarriages in Tent City and then he’d deny it. And then I’d ask why he isn’t giving the feds the paperwork they’re asking for, and he’d say that they are understaffed and underpaid and don’t have the time or resources to find those papers.
Would it come to blows?
If it did, I’d probably get arrested and die in jail. •
Andrew Jackson Jihad
8pm Sat, Sept. 11
The Ten Eleven
1011 Avenue B