In 2007, two Village Voice Media executives, Lacey and Jim Larkin, were without consent taken from their homes in the Phoenix Area into unmarked SUV’s. The well known SEU, Selective Enforcement Unit of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, sent these two individuals to separate jails. They were wrongfully imprisoned, stating to other inmates as the reason for being there as “writing.”
Phoenix News Times received several grand jury subpoenas from allies in the Attorney Office of Arpaio on writers, editors, and readers. Both the two executives chose this as an opportunity not to shrink away from the subpoenas, but write about them instead. Phoenix News Times had been known to produce stories talking about the workings of Arpaio. How he unlawfully imprisons individuals based solely on racial profiling and how the horrific treatment of inmates. Some inmates receive bad treatment, while others have subsequently died in their time at the jails managed by Arpaio.
Having been wrongfully taken into custody because of not allowing the expression of First Amendment rights, Arpaio’s abuse of power cost the Maricopa County $3.7 million dollars in a settlement paid to Lacey and Larkin. Instead of using this money for themselves, this money was put into launching the Frontera Fund. This was created to fund the efforts of organizations that promote equality in the Hispanic community.
Both Lacey and Larkin see the fear Arpaio has placed within their community because of his handling and tactics regarding the Hispanic community. By administering these dollars to nonprofit organizations, Hispanic rights and causes will now have a stronger voice and impact.
It’s often talked about how non-profits are the biggest life-changing forces in the world and how they need funding in order to continue operating. Yet when it comes to human rights and endeavoring to help individuals escape the overreaching arms of tyranny, sometimes people have had to stick their neck on the line in order to help people in big brother nations.
Such stories have been told by Thor Halvorssen, the founder of the Human Rights Foundation who has confronted oppressive government officials head on and has risked imprisonment and torture all to help others obtain freedom of speech and basic liberty. Yet really becoming personally involved with a human rights foundation could mean going into dangerous domains.
Park Yeon-mi is also a human rights supporter who has her own stories to tell of escaping Kim Jong Il’s brutality in communist North Korea. She and her family had many difficult situations to deal with from suffering cruelty at the hands of soldiers to also uncovering human trafficking operations in China.
Audiences who have heard stories like hers have been succumbed to shock and horror about all the things many people in police state countries have to go through. While it’s certainly important to know about things that foreign governments are doing to their people, you might be surprised to find a hotbed of human rights violations even here in the US where Lacy and Larkin are working.
Human rights activists Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin are from Arizona and they’ve taken an interest in the stories of immigrants coming over to find a better life. Lacy and Larkin said that as young men they were taught about respecting people regardless of nationality and race and the importance of compassion, so they knew they could help immigrants especially in poorer situations with their journalism. Their first publication was the “Phoenix New Times.”
Lacey and Larkin garnered some unpopularity for their work and faced opposition most strongly from the controversial Phoenix County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. They had published documents on abusive practices towards immigrants back several years ago, and as a result Arpaio had the two men wrongfully arrested.
But not about to back down, Lacey and Larkin filed a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office and ended up winning $3.75 million from it. It was that money that Lacey and Larkin decided to use to startup the Frontera Fund, a foundation that not only provides news stories but also finances and initiatives to help immigrants in distressed situations.