Several protesters in Arizona were arrested on Saturday after they blocked traffic and chained themselves to their cars in an effort to prevent people from attending a Donald Trump rally near Phoenix.
Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, is scheduled to host rallies in Fountain Hills, a suburb about 30 miles northeast of Phoenix, and Tucson ahead of Tuesday's primary in Arizona. In response, dozens of anti-Trump protesters lined up on Shea Boulevard, snarling traffic on the main route connecting the town with Phoenix. Trump's rally in Fountain Hills went on as planned despite the protest.
The demonstrators held signs that said "Stand Against Racism," and chanted "Donald Trump, shut it down, Phoenix is a people's town." Others said, "Get this clown out of our town." Another chant — "What do we want? — was answered with cries of "Dead Trump!"
Trump has frequently used anti-immigrant rhetoric on the campaign trail, and he has promised to build a giant wall along the US-Mexico border if he is elected. Immigration is a hot-button issue in Arizona, which passed a controversial law in 2010 that allows police to stop and question anyone they suspect might be in the country illegally. Approximately 40 percent of the state's residents are Hispanic.
Trump has maintained a lead in the Arizona polls over his two remaining rivals, Texas Senator Ted Cruz from Texas and Ohio Governor John Kasich.
Earlier this week, controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio from Maricopa County– which encompasses Fountain Hills – expressed his delight that Trump would be gracing the area with his presence. "I'm gonna be kind wearing two hats – in charge of the security there in the town and also participating, I would imagine, with Trump in the rally," Arpaio said.
The 83-year-old sheriff has repeatedly been accused of racial profiling, and he and his deputies were found to have violated the constitutional rights of Latinos in 2013. Arpaio, who touts himself as "America's toughest sheriff," has cost taxpayers in Maricopa County $142 million in legal fees and settlements since he took office in 1993.
"He is different, he's going to do things differently," Arpaio told supporters at the Trump rally, standing before a turquoise swimming pool with palm trees in the background. "I'm not a psychiatrist, but I do have gut feeling. From day one, I knew this was the guy."
"He's gonna build a wall," Arpaio said to huge cheers, "and if they don't pay for that wall, we'll take away their foreign aid."
Cruz, who ranks second in the Arizona polls, is also in the state hustling for votes. He promised supporters that, while early voting results appear to favor Trump, his popularity was surging in the polls.
Elsewhere on Saturday, hundreds of protesters gathered in Manhattan to protest against Trump, marching through Central Park to Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. The demonstration, which was not sponsored by any single group, was attended by Bernie Sanders supporters, members of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and plenty of other people who just came to see what was going on.
The protesters remained relatively peaceful as they made their way past some of Manhattan's most expensive storefronts, including Louis Vuitton and Dior, toward Trump's eponymous skyscraper. As they marched, the protesters shouted slogans, including "Build bridges not walls," and "dump Trump."
Mary-Beth Whitehouse, a middle school teacher from the Bronx, was at the rally carrying a sign that read "Build a wall around Trump; I'll Pay for it." She was there because she said that Trump did not represent her city of New York.
"This is a great city and it's great because of the diversity of the people who live here," Whitehouse said. "Donald Trump is not supporting the diversity of the people of this amazing city. Instead he's putting forth hate and fear and anger."
Suad Kerama, who immigrated to New York from North Africa, was at the rally because she was troubled by Trump's statements about immigration. At first she did not take Trump seriously but the fact that he has now become the frontrunner " is very scary," Kerama said.
There were a few scuffles that broke out along the way, including a moment when protesters attempted to break through he police barricades to march in the street against traffic. They were quickly pushed back by police and at least two people were arrested.
There were also some counter-protesters who were there to show their support for Trump. George Overbach drove into Manhattan from his home on Long Island for the rally because, he said, "I personally believe Donald Trump is going to be the most accountable president we've ever had because of the way he talks."
Overbach was wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat and carrying a "Trump for America" sign. Some of the anti-Trump protesters had shouted at him and threw things at his sign, Overbach said, but for the most part things stayed relatively calm. As the event was winding down, he said he needed to go check on his car that was parked around the block. "I hope nobody smashed my windows," he added, laughing.
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