PHOENIX (CN) – Dozens of protesters blocked the main route leading into a Donald Trump rally just outside Phoenix on Saturday, but did not stop thousands from rallying around the Republican presidential candidate.
Protesters used their vehicles to block State Route 87 and Shea Boulevard, a major artery to the Phoenix suburb of Fountain Hills, about three miles from the Trump rally.
Shouting “Shut it down,” “No hate,” and “Go back,” protesters held up traffic for about an hour, with some chaining themselves to their vehicles.
Three were eventually arrested, according to Deputy Joaquin Enriquez of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
While protests took place down the street, supporters waited in a long, weaving line to get into the venue, or on a hill overlooking the scene.
Sue Tolly, 50, was originally torn between Trump and Ted Cruz, but officially began to support Trump in July of 2015.
“When I went to his Phoenix rally, he convinced me he was the right choice,” Tolly said.
Tolly recently registered as a Republican to vote in Arizona’s primary on Tuesday.
“The way the GOP is handling this, I’ll be back to undeclared after the primary,” Tolly said.
Rudy Varela, 75, said he has supported Trump from the get-go.
“I like his aggressiveness,” Varela said. “He holds nothing back – you have a tendency to believe he’ll get stuff done.”
Varela, a Mexican-American, has always voted Republican and doesn’t buy criticism of Trump’s race rhetorics.
“That’s just something they made up because they don’t like him,” Varela said.
Varela was looking forward to hearing Trump talk about immigration.
“Especially here in Arizona,” Varela said. “[And] the wall he wants to build.”
Immigration, like for Varela, was also on the mind of 61-year-old Lynn Petronella.
“[Our country] has been slipping down this slope,” Petronella said. “We all came here legally, we didn’t come here illegally and have anchor babies.”
Petronella, who fought to get women’s marathon running into the Olympic Games, says the way the country has been changing doesn’t bode well for the future of American children.
“The media has done a very poisonous job of infecting the public,” Petronella said. “This is nothing to do with race. This is an American issue.”
Not all attendees were there out of support for or to protest Trump, however.
Sharnai Fisher, 30, came out to Fountain Hills to “get a feel” for what Trump has to offer as a potential commander in chief.
“I’m not cool with [Trump’s] agenda,” Fisher, who is voting for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, said.
A black woman, Fisher recently joined the U.S. Air Force and deploys for boot camp next month. She worries that Trump’s rhetoric might affect how she’s treated in the military and beyond.
“Is someone going to disrespect me?” Fisher said.
The rally, which was scheduled at 11 a.m., kicked off nearly an hour late due to the protests and featured appearances by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former Gov. Jan Brewer.
“We have a president that has failed the American people,” Brewer said. “We here in Arizona are going to propel Donald Trump to that seat.”
Brewer endorsed Trump in February, saying, “For years I pleaded with the federal government to do their job and secure our border. Today, we can elect a president who will do just that – Donald J. Trump.”
Arpaio, who lives in Fountain Hills, admitted to the crowd that the rally ran late because of the protests.
“They think they are going to intimidate you and the next president of the United States. Not going to happen, not in this town,” Arpaio said.
Like Brewer, Arpaio extolled Trump’s plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and to force Mexico to pay for the cost of the wall.
“If they don’t pay for that wall, then we should take away their foreign aid and then they will pay,” Arpaio said.
Arpaio endorsed Trump in January. The self-proclaimed “America’s Toughest Sheriff” is currently the subject of civil contempt charges for failure to train his deputies how to make constitutional traffic stops without racially profiling Latinos as required by a 2013 federal court order.
Despite a heavy presence of protesters, Trump took the stage wearing a red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap and launched into a list of changes he will implement if voted in as president.
“We are going to end Common Core,” Trump said. “Education will be local … we don’t want our children educated by bureaucrats in Washington D.C.”
And on gun control, the GOP front-runner said, “We are going to protect our Second Amendment. We are going to be smart, we are going to be vigilant, we are going to be proud of our country again.”
Trump gained his largest applause when talking about illegal immigration, a hotbed issue in Arizona where about 300,000 residents are undocumented.
“You know this country has a big, big problem with illegal immigration,” Trump said. “So many killings, so much crime, people are now seeing it. And you know what, we are going to build the wall and we are going to stop it, it’s going to end.”
Trump boasted about the gains his campaign has made, thanking his supporters and berating the media.
“There’s nothing as dishonest as the media,” Trump said, motioning to reporters in the press box. “I only wish these cameras would spin around and show the kind of people we have here. We have the silent majority that is no longer so silent.”
Illegal immigration and a noisy group of raucous, chanting protesters also punctuated Trump’s rally in Tucson later in the day.
A loud group of protesters shouted slogans and marched with pre-printed and homemade signs outside the downtown Tucson Convention Center starting around 1:30 p.m. Just a few feet away, a long line of people waited to enter the rally ahead of Arizona’s presidential preference election on Tuesday.
The protest picked up steam an hour before the event’s official start time of 3 p.m., with a diverse crowd of young and old and white, black and Hispanic protesters.
A line of Tucson police officers stood between the rally attendees waiting in line and a group of protesters shouting “Trump is a racist, and so are his supporters!”
Carlos, who did not want to give his last name, held up a professionally printed sign that read “No Mas Trumpadas,” which he said was a “play on words” based on Spanish word mamadas, or sucklings. He said he works as a manager of finance and operation at a local college and had come out to protest “the xenophobia that [Trump] is dusting up from the bottom of the sea floor, and it’s creating this mass movement.”
He added, “He’s tapped into a nerve that taps into the fear and hate. Trump has so many boogeymen. If we don’t stand up now, if he actually does what he says, it’s going to be a really scary country to live in.”
Nearby, two 17-year-old high school students held up a sign that read “We are Mexican, we or our family are not rapists, drug lords, lazy criminals.”
One of the students said, “That’s how he portrays us.”
The high school students, though not eligible to vote in this year’s election, said they were inspired by Trump’s rhetoric to enter the political fray for the first time.
“At least he inspired me to do something,” she said.
Nick Baldwin, a retired social worker, said he came to the protest to show support for “immigrants, who are not a danger to the United States.”
While many of the protesters carried professionally made signs such as Black Lives Matter placards and pictures of Trump with with a confederate flag superimposed over an angry visage with teeth bared, others made their own out of cardboard and markers. The messages on these include “You can’t comb over fascism” and “I’ll trade you one Trump for 10,000 refugees.”
Inside the convention center, a crowd of about 3,000 cheered as Brewster took the stage. Brewer, who is well known for her tough stance on undocumented immigration during her tenure and for sparring with President Barack Obama, drew large applause from the Tucson crowd.
“All of us who live in Arizona know a little bit about illegal immigration and what it has done to our great state, and the suffering and heartache that it brings to the families and the costs, and all of us believe in the rule of law – come legally!” Brewer said. “And Mr. Trump understands that, he believes in the rule of law and he’s going to build that wall.”
Arpaio took the stage to introduce Trump, welcomed by loud applause. He mentioned the protesters that had showed up earlier in Fountain Hills.
“Some demonstrators were trying to intimidate the rally up there, so we locked up some demonstrators and threw them in jail,” Arpaio said. “And I hear there are some demonstrators outside trying to keep 2,400 to 2,500 people from coming here to hear Donald Trump’s speech. I don’t think that’s right, where’s the First Amendment? Actually, I think after this I’m going to go out and pay a visit to them.”
Arpaio also suggested that he is not particularly popular in Tucson, which is in Pima County and is one of the few solidly liberal enclaves in the famously conservative Grand Canyon State.
“I’ve been to Tucson before. I go to the toilet and I have demonstrators,” he said.
Trump took the stage and delivered a fairly standard stump speech for about an hour, which was interrupted a few times by protesters, one wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood, which Trump called “disgusting.”
He then told the crowd that there were some 2,500 people who were having trouble getting into the event because of the protesters.
“Outside right now, we have 2,500 people that can’t get in, and it’s so unfair to these people, and a few protesters are making it so there’s a very narrow passageway.”
A protester was allegedly punched and kicked inside the Tucson rally. A video of the altercation involving Bryan Sanders, who was also part of the protest outside the event before it started, had gone around the Internet by Sunday morning. Tucson Police arrested one man on suspicion of misdemeanor assault with injury, the Arizona Daily Start reported.
Trump lauded the crowd at the previous night’s rally in Salt Lake City and predicted that he would win the Utah primary, which takes place on the same day as Arizona’s.
“I think we are going to do pretty good,” he said. “Based on last night’s response, I think we are going to do well in Utah.”
He then attacked Mitt Romney, a Mormon who lost the presidential election to Obama in 2012.
“Four years ago we had a candidate that choked like a dog,” Trump said. “The Mormons love winners. And I think we are going to do well in Utah.”
And once again, he pledged to stop undocumented immigration.
“We either have a border or we don’t, and if we don’t have a border, we don’t have a country,” he said.”We want them to come into our country, but they’re going to come into our country legally.
“And we are going to build a wall, a real wall, a major wall,” he said, “and who’s going to pay for the wall?”
The question elicited a shouting response from the he crowd: “Mexico!”
Trump continued, “We have a country that’s so divided right now that it’s disgraceful. We are going to have a country that’s unified, not like it is now.”
The front-runner also said that he wanted to renegotiate trade deals with China and Mexico and make it harder for U.S. companies to move overseas.
“We want trains that go 300 miles an hour like China has. We want infrastructure. We want our jobs back,” he said. “I want Apple to build their products in the United States, not China.”
When Trump noticed a woman holding up a sign that read “Latinos Support Trump,” he invited her on stage and hugged her.
“Look at that sign! Latinos support Trump, I love you! Get me that sign, bring her up here,” he said. “Latinos! I love you, darling. Come on over here, get her over here. I love that, that means so much to me.”
He added, “I’ve fallen in love with her.”
Trump added that he would “get rid of Common Core,” “get rid of Obamacare” and replace it with something “so much better,” “protect our second amendment rights” and take care of veterans and reduce taxes for the middle class.
And he pledged to “take our jobs back from China, back from Mexico.”
He said, “I believe in free trade, but we need smart people at the top that know how to negotiate. We are going to start winning again.”
A recent poll conducted by Arizona pollster Bruce Merrill with Westgroup Research has Trump winning the Arizona primary with 31 percent of the vote, followed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz with 19 percent and both Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio – who ended his campaign this past week – with 10 percent.
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