PHOENIX (CN) — Phoenix is bracing for protests as President Trump holds a campaign-style rally downtown despite the mayor’s request that he stay away so soon after the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia that led to three deaths.
“We want this event to be peaceful,” Police Chief Jeri Williams said at a news conference Monday. “But there is a distinct difference between voicing your First Amendment rights and committing unlawful acts.”
Mayor Greg Stanton, a Democrat, also called for attendees and protesters to respect the law.
“To those attending the rally and to those outside, we want to give you every opportunity to express your First Amendments rights no matter what your opinion happens to be,” Stanton said.
Stanton asked Trump last week to reconsider coming to Phoenix so quickly after a neo-Nazi protest in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 12 turned violent.
It’s unclear what Trump will speak of during the rally, but his recent statements indicate he may use the occasion to pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for his conviction for criminal contempt.
Arpaio, who was sheriff of Phoenix-based Maricopa County for 24 years, was convicted this summer month of contempt of court, for violating a federal judge’s order to stop racially profiling and arresting Latinos.
Trump told Fox News in an interview that he was considering a pardon for Arpaio, 85, calling the retired sheriff “a great American patriot.”
Arpaio faces up to six months in jail at his Oct. 5 sentencing.
A poll conducted over the weekend by OH Predictive Insights found that only 21 percent of Arizonans support a pardon of Arpaio. His highest percentage of support came from residents 55 and older, 31 percent of whom thought the president should pardon him.
The city expects tens of thousands to flock downtown Tuesday afternoon to attend the rally and protest.
At least 10 protests are slated for before, during and after the rally, including one led by Congressman Raul Grijalva, a Democrat.
Bikers for Trump are expected to attend to provide security at the rally.
A number of businesses and schools in the downtown area are closing early, before the convention center opens its doors at 4 p.m.
Included in those closures are downtown court buildings, which will close three hours early at 2 p.m.
Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, will not attend the rally, but will welcome Trump at the airport. Ducey supported candidate Trump at a downtown rally during the campaign.
Kelli Ward, a Republican and former state senator, said she will attend. Trump has encourages Ward to run against incumbent Senator Jeff Flake, one of the first prominent, sitting elected Republican’s to rebuke Trump for some of his stands and actions.
Trump is scheduled to take the stage at 7 p.m. at the Phoenix Convention Center