President Trump Heading To Phoenix In Politically Tense Visit
President Donald Trump heads to Phoenix on Tuesday for a campaign-style rally. This will be Trump’s first trip back to Arizona since the election. It will also be the president’s first time in front of a crowd since deadly violence broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia, this month at a white supremacist rally. The city of Phoenix is preparing for what will be a politically and emotionally tense visit.
The downtown headquarters of the organization known as Puente has been a busy place lately. The migrant justice advocacy group is holding an art party for supporters to let out their feelings and firm up plans for their protest on Tuesday.
Using screen printers, one group of volunteers pumped out hundreds of signs to be used in their demonstration tomorrow. They include sayings like “Down with white supremacy” and “Resist” in blue and red ink. Maria Castro is one of the group’s organizers.
"We must stand up and resist against white supremacists like Trump and like Arpaio who have been tormenting our communities for oh so long," Castro said.
Castro is talking about Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff who was recently convicted of criminal contempt of court for ignoring a federal judge’s order to stop traffic patrols that targeted immigrants. While it’s not confirmed, Castro and many others here think Trump will use the visit to announce a pardon for his longtime political ally.
"It's definitely a huge slap in the face for our communities," Castro said.
At a diner just up the road from Puente headquarters, Jim Williams is finalizing the logistics for an event his group is also hosting Tuesday. He’s with Bikers for Trump Arizona.
"We don’t want anyone to feel intimidated for going to see someone speak," Williams said.
Williams worries that anti-Trump protesters might harass or even block rally goers.
"They have a right to go and listen," he said.
Williams and about 100 other bikers plan to provide what they call security for the event. He explains the goal is to generally act as a buffer for pro Trump attendees. Williams said while they aren’t going to be confrontational toward anti-Trump demonstrators, but "we can’t allow them to get away with crowding us into a corner. We’ve got to stand our ground."
Last week, the mayor of Phoenix, Greg Stanton, asked President Trump not to visit the city. But the administration is moving forward with the event and planning trips elsewhere including Yuma, Arizona and later, Reno, Nevada.
In a pre-recorded statement, Stanton said he’s disappointed President Trump is holding this rally while the nation is still healing from the violence that erupted this month in Charlottesville.
"If President Trump is coming to Phoenix to announce a pardon for former Sheriff Joe Arpaio then it will be clear his true intent is to inflame emotions and further divide our nation," Stanton said.
But Stanton adds he’s confident in his city’s ability to keep everyone safe. The police and the fire departments have spent the last week coordinating their plans.
"We had three-hour meetings with the President’s forward team, then we had breakout sessions with each multi agency group working together," he said.
Rob McDade is a spokesman with the Phoenix Fire Department. "We are prepared for the absolute worst case scenario. And then scaling that all the way back to nothing happens and everything goes just as planned," McDade said.
According to the Phoenix Police Department, all agencies will be fully staffed because what they don’t want is a repeat of Charlottesville.