Arizona grassroots activists protest anti-immigrant measure (SB1070), United States, 2010


To force the state of Arizona to repeal SB1070, a law that requires immigrants to always carry the documentation of their legal immigration status.

Time period

May, 2010 to 27 July, 2010


United States

Location City/State/Province

Jump to case narrative


Alto Arizona, Puente Arizona


National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON)

External allies

UNITE HERE, Copwatch, Ruckus Society, Repeal Coalition

Involvement of social elites

Musical artists: Rage Against the Machine, Los Tigros del Norte, Kanye West


Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, state government of Arizona

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

Not known

Repressive Violence

Not known


Human Rights



Group characterization

Undocumented Immigrants
immigration activists

Groups in 1st Segment

Ruckus Society
Alto Arizona
Puente Arizona
Repeal Coalition

Groups in 6th Segment

Rage Against the Machine
Los Tigros del Norte
Kanye West

Segment Length

Approximately 2 weeks

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

0 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

4 out of 10 points

Database Narrative

In May 2010, Alto Arizona, an immigrants’ rights organization, began assembling different grassroots groups to come together for the “Human Rights Summer.”. Inspired by the Freedom Summer of the Civil Rights Movement, the goal of the Human Rights Summer was to force Arizona to overturn the controversial immigration law SB1070, which stated that all adult foreigners in the United States for more than thirty days must register with the US government and keep their registration documents with them at all times. Violation would be considered a federal misdemeanor and could lead to arrest. The law was spearheaded by Governor Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe Arpaio. 

The project began with training workshops hosted by the Ruckus Society, which taught courses on direct action and publicized and supported the work of its trainees on their widely read blog. Soon, Alto Arizona began networking throughout Arizona to find grassroots organizations to participate in the Human Rights Summer. Alto Arizona planned to protest continuously for a month before SB1070 took affect on 27 July. 

At the beginning of the campaign, a group called Puente Arizona began organizing small units called Barrio Defense Committees. These groups were structured after groups that activists used in El Salvador. Thousands of people joined these committees, which organized training workshops for activists. Members specifically taught their neighbors about their own legal rights, and helped them work on English language skills so that they could better defend themselves against police. 

Another group, called Copwatch, joined these units to help local immigrants document police misconduct such as racial profiling and harassment. The campaign also worked with the Repeal Coalition, a grassroots organization which invited the National Day Laborer Organizing Network to help structure their campaign using techniques like house calls and neighborhood mapping. 

On 13 May, Alto Arizona released a series of protest posters to be distributed throughout Arizona and especially in Phoenix. The posters highlighted the racial profiling and related methods used by Arizona state police.  The posters accused the state government of implementing “racist fascism”. The images used highlighted day laborers and immigrant families with mothers and children. 

On 19 May, the campaigners promoted the release of an album they had solicited called “A Line in the Sand.” The album was a collaboration between various musicians, some unsigned and some from major label rosters. It featured protest songs specifically discussing SB1070, 287g, and other immigration law issues, calling out the US government on policies of racism. 

On 29 May, over 100,000 people from across America came to Arizona to march on Phoenix in protest of SB1070. The march began at Steele Indian School Park and continued to the State Capitol building. Because so many people had come from out of town, Puente Arizona organized home stays for people with nowhere to sleep. When the march began at 10 am on the 29th, protesters showed their creativity. Banners read “Obama Keep Your Promise” and “Legalize Arizona.” Other activists wore t-shirts reading “indocumentado”, publicizing their immigration status. Others carried US flags. One unit of activists carried a piñata depicting Governor Jan Brewer with the words “Racism is Ugly”.

On 20 July 2010, one week before Governor Jan Brewer scheduled the official implementation of SB1070, Alto Arizona announced the beginning of a “SoundStrike”, in which they petitioned musicians to boycott performing in Arizona. The SoundStrike was led in part by Zack de la Rocha, the Mexican American lead singer of Rage Against the Machine. De la Rocha released a statement to the press explaining why he will not support SB1070 on 21 July. Rage held a benefit concert at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles, California, on 23 July to rally support for the Human Rights Summer. Jornaleros del Norte, a band of day laborers and activists writing about immigration inequality, opened the show. Together, they raised $300,000 for the campaign. 

Many other notable musicians joined the SoundStrike, including Kanye West, Nine Inch Nails, and many Latin acts such as Los Tigres del Norte. Fans petitioned Lady Gaga in mass numbers. She had an enormous show scheduled in Phoenix three days after the implementation of SB1070. However, she did not respond. 

On 27 July 2010, beginning at midnight when the law was officially instated, eighty local activists blocked the entrance to Guadalupe, a primarily Hispanic and Native town outside Phoenix. They held banners and chanted, expressing their distaste for Joe Arpaio, the notoriously brutal Phoenix Sheriff who promoted SB1070.  Their banners proclaimed that law enforcement working for Arpaio was not welcome in Guadalupe.

The same day, NDLON assisted in bringing 550 members of fellow union UNITE HERE, who, with AFL-CIO support, joined the protests in Phoenix on the last day of the Human Rights Summer. As the campaign drew to a close, its many constituent members separated again and began planning their next assaults on Jan Brewer, Arpaio and Arizona’s interpretation of American immigration law. 



Flaherty, Jordan. "In Arizona, A Human Rights Summer". Yes! Magazine Online. 30 July 2010.

Gaynor, Tim. "Protesters march against Arizona immigration law." Reuters. 29 May 2010.

"ALTO ARIZONA Against Arizona’s SB1070". Prison Photography. 13 May 2010.

Cizmar, Martin. "Buy A Line in the Sand: A Compilation of SB 1070 Protest Songs". 19 May 2010. Phoenix New Times.

Ramos-Chapman, Naima. "Soundstrike rages against Arizona". Color Lines. 26 July 2010.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Lydia Bailey, 28/04/2013