Tim Steller is the Star’s metro columnist. A 20-plus year veteran of reporting and editing, he digs into issues and stories that matter in the Tucson area, reports the results and tells you his opinion on it all.

People on social media have learned a key principle: If you go viral, you have to strike fast to take advantage.

That’s what the leaders of the People’s Defense Initiative, the formal name of Tucson’s sanctuary city proposal, are trying to do this week after video went viral of their field organizer laughing at a critic at Tuesday’s Tucson City Council meeting.

In case you missed it, Jennifer Harrison, a right-wing provocateur from the Phoenix area, stood up at the meeting and yelled at Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and the council after they approved putting the initiative on the ballot, saying that immigration law is Congress’ role and that they were violating their oath. It was a dumb critique because the council had no choice in the matter — the initiative’s supporters had gathered many more valid signatures than needed to go on the ballot.

Alex Kack, the field organizer for the initiative, thought it was ridiculous, too, and he laughed hysterically as Harrison went on yelling at the council in her trademark performance-activism. KVOA TV’s Nick VinZant had a sharp enough eye to catch not just Harrison performing but Kack laughing uproariously at her. The rest is internet history.

But the effects won’t end with shares on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or feature stories on national TV. Zaira Livier, who is spearheading the initiative campaign, said around midday Thursday that the initiative campaign had raised about $8,000 dollars since the Green Shirt Guy video went viral. And they have plans to take further advantage.

“We’ve had hundreds of (new) donations already,” she said. “Last time I checked, we were at $8,000 in new donations, and it’s going up every hour.”

As of its last campaign-finance report, filed July 15, the initiative campaign had raised a total of $5,389. So that’s a significant bump.

If passed, the initiative would put into local law strict limits on when Tucson police can interact with immigration officials and break off federal-local law enforcement collaborations that don’t adhere to those restrictions, among other points.

Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik, who opposes the initiative, said the momentum seems to be turning in favor of it. The Green Shirt Guy viral video helped, but so too has the news, he said. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in Mississippi on Wednesday, the immigration-motivated terrorist attack in El Paso, and the rhetoric coming from the White House all create support for sanctuary, Kozachik believes.

In his view, that support is misguided, because the sanctuary initiative would not counteract Trump administration policies, and he says it would make Tucson less safe, largely by eliminating joint operations between Tucson police and federal agencies. Supporters of the initiative say those joint operations not involving immigration agencies could be easily reassembled.

In any case, you will likely see more Green Shirt Guy references soon. The People’s Defense Initiative is planning to begin selling a similar green polo to the one Kack was wearing, with an antifascist logo on it, as well as a T-shirt with a caricature of Kack laughing, both to benefit the initiative campaign.

Ronnebeck launches in CD3

Republican Steve Ronnebeck announced Tuesday that he is planning to run for Congress against nine-term incumbent Democrat Raúl Grijalva.

Ronnebeck’s son, Grant, was killed in 2015 when he was working as a clerk at a Mesa convenience store. The man accused of murdering him, Apolinar Altamirano, was in the country illegally, making Grant Ronnebeck’s death a cause célèbre among people wanting to improve border security and restrict immigration, including President Trump.

“Folks, our nation is in crisis. Our southern border is in crisis. And our constitution is in crisis,” Ronnebeck said as he made the announcement outside the Pima County Juvenile Court Center.

The campaign picked that site because it is where asylum-seekers who cross the border are being sheltered before they are sent to other places in the country.

Ronnebeck, who does not live in CD3, said Grijalva has failed the district over his years in Congress, noting the high unemployment rates in Santa Cruz and Yuma counties.

“Tens of thousands of our CD3 residents are struggling to make ends meet in these boom times,” Ronnebeck said.

Candidates for the U.S. House do not have to live in the district they are seeking to represent, though they do have to live in the state.

Ronnebeck dedicated most of his speech to immigration and border issues, arguing that “Politicians like Raúl Grijalva are doing nothing to protect the lives of American citizens.”

First elected to Congress in 2002, Grijalva has won re-election eight times, most of the time by comfortable margins in a district that favors Democrats, encompassing the western part of the Tucson area, much of Santa Cruz County, going out to Yuma and including the southwestern part of the Phoenix metro area.

Univision en ingles

The Democratic candidates for mayor of Tucson traveled to Phoenix on Tuesday to attend a forum put on by Univision, which is of course a Spanish-language TV network.

That did not, however, give an advantage to Regina Romero, even though she is the only Spanish speaker among the three candidates. The station conducted the forum in English, and it was translated for broadcast.

That’s certainly a good thing for Steve Farley. The former state senator has tried to use Spanish in his campaign lately, but the results have not always been satisfactorios, let’s say.

A mailer sent out by his campaign referred to his “Liderazgo Comprobado Para Todos Los Tucsonanes” — or, “Proven Leadership For All Tucsonans.” Except the word for people from Tucson, in Spanish, is Tucsonenses, not Tucsonanes.

A tweet he sent out Tuesday said, “Conocza a Steve e aprender mas de su plan para seguir adelante en nuestro sito de internet nuevo.” Not awful, but still he puts an infinitive verb, aprender, where it doesn’t belong, along with inserting a word “e” that doesn’t fit, and misspells the word sitio as “sito.” Ay ay ay.

MORE: What you missed this week in notable Tucson crimes and court cases 


Contact: tsteller@tucson.com or 807-7789. On Twitter: @senyorreporter


Tim Steller is the Star’s metro columnist. A 20-plus year veteran of reporting and editing, he digs into issues and stories that matter in the Tucson area, reports the results and tells you his opinion on it all.