Phoenix police on Wednesday stopped someone who was providing aid to the city’s unhoused residents, held her down on the pavement, and arrested her.
Sophia Dancel is part of the group Unsheltered Phoenix, and has been one of the Valley’s most dedicated volunteers in “The Zone,” the largest encampment in the state. Dancel has brought those who stay there food, clothing, and other lifesaving supplies for years.
She’s also been very outspoken about the discrimination, violence, and human rights violations she has seen firsthand from law enforcement against unsheltered Arizonans.
As first reported by the Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Police Department—-which is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice for multiple civil rights violations—had closed off a section of “The Zone” and was in the process of evicting 37 residents.
Dancel was there to provide aid and document what was happening when police told her to leave. When she didn’t, police pinned her to the scorching hot pavement, cited her with trespassing and resisting arrest, and took her to jail. She was released later that day.
A coalition of civil rights and police accountability groups, including Mass Liberation AZ, Black Lives Matter Metro Phoenix, and Fuerte Arts Movement, released a joint statement after the arrest.
“The fact that this arrest happened while the department is under a Department of Justice investigation for several civil rights violations, including retaliatory targeting and arrests of police critics and their treatment of the unsheltered community, is a slap in the face not only to Phoenix residents but the DOJ as well,” the statement said.
Dancel and others who have provided aid to those living in “The Zone” say they have experienced harassment from police in the past, and believe the arrest to be a form of political prosecution.