Donald Trump’s 2017 Phoenix Rally

dumb trump
(Jeff Burgess)

The biggest difference between President Donald Trump’s August 22 rally at the Phoenix Convention Center and the campaign rally he held there in the summer of 2015 was the number of anti-Trump protestors outside of the building.

I am proud to say that I participated in both protests, but was disappointed by the small size of the one at Trump’s 2015 rally. Looking back, I attribute it to a mistaken presumption that Trump had no realistic chance to win the 2016 presidential election. Also, the outdoor temperature that day was 106°F. The outdoor temperature at the recent rally was the same, but this time it didn’t stop thousands of people from showing up to voice their displeasure.

But even though we were there to protest, our overall spirit was joyful because of the camaraderie we felt from being with so many other Americans who also believed that Donald Trump’s presidency has been an unprecedented disaster for our country. There was almost a fun, carnival atmosphere, with lots of clever signs, inspiring music, and potent chants, like “Walk of Shame” directed at the people filing into the convention center to hear Trump speak. I especially enjoyed the guy who wandered through the crowd with a small amplifier slung over his shoulder broadcasting a recording of Trump saying, “Grab them by the pussy,” in an infinite loop. The giant inflatable figures of Trump and Joe Arpaio, wearing a KKK outfit and prison garb respectively, were pretty good too – and had obviously taken a lot of work to make.

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Trump protest signs, Phoenix Convention Center, August 22, 2017 (Jeff Burgess)

The diversity among the anti-Trump protestors was a stark contrast to his supporters on the other side of the police line across the street. They were almost entirely white people – more than 99%. But the Trump protestors seemed to encompass almost every demographic in the U.S. The were, of course, many Latinos because of Trump’s support for Arpaio. I found the Native American protestors especially effective because they reminded everyone they have been subjected to oppression longer than any other group in America.

The news media made a lot out of the fact that a handful of troublemakers provoked the Phoenix police into unleashing tear gas and flash bang grenades on all of the remaining protestors near the end of the event. Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams defended her officers actions, but many of the people who were still protesting peacefully said the police overreacted and gave them no warnings.

I didn’t see what happened. I was in a nearby restaurant having an ice-cold beer by then because I couldn’t take the heat any longer – having been outside for more than an hour and a half. (It is difficult to describe how quickly the Sonoran Desert’s summer heat can debilitate you.) But I can say that 100% of the protestors I encountered were peaceful, and that’s the most important thing to remember about the protest.

Among the tiny minority in the crowd that weren’t joyful were four young white people, one with a very long hillbilly beard, that trailed each other through the crowd dressed in faux combat clothes, wearing armored vests and carrying AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifles across their chests. I wondered why they were carrying what I presumed to be loaded weapons, and I overheard other people wondering the same thing. The four of them had completely neutral expressions on their faces and didn’t look directly at anybody as they passed through. Who did they think they might have to shoot?

There was also a very small group of people dressed from head to foot in black, wearing helmets, dark sunglasses, and bandanas to hide their faces. They were standing still, at attention, in an ominously tight formation, and the rest of us looked upon them with suspicion and gave them space. I presumed they were an Antifa group. But if they were, I think it was odd that their black and red flag looked like the flag used by Ukrainian fascists.

Almost all of the Trump supporters across the street were in a line to enter the convention center. Some of them yelled back at us and gave us the finger as they slowly passed by on their way into the building, but most of them just watched us, seemingly surprised at the size and enthusiasm of our protest.

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Trump supporters, Phoenix Convention Center, August 22, 2017 (Jeff Burgess)

But there was also a very small group of pro-Trump demonstrators gathered on the corner. They had some hateful signs and one fellow had a very loud electrically amplified megaphone. He used it to almost unceasingly shout insults at anti-Trump protestors. Some of the things he said were so awfully racist that people, including myself, gasped and asked the person next to them if he’d really just said what it sounded like he’d said. I noticed that one of the black policemen keeping the different protestors separated dropped his head and shook it in response to one of the guy’s most racist rants. I wondered what, exactly, that policeman was thinking.

I think that the police behaved well and performed their duties objectively – at least during the time I was at the protest. I had several polite and friendly discussions with officers on the edges of the crowd, where they seemed to like to stay. I’m sure, however, that there will be some investigations into their conduct at the end of the event. I hope there will be an independent one that answers all of the questions about what happened.

In the meantime, my only criticism of the police is that I think they should have tried to do more than simply keep the two sides apart. I know they had a difficult job, but why, for example, did they seem to be ignoring the people dressed like wannabe militia walking through the crowd with AR-15s? Why didn’t they seem concerned about the Antifa squad that appeared poised for mayhem? And why didn’t one of them go over and talk to the guy who was literally trying to incite a race riot by screaming horrible things through his megaphone?

I realize there were First Amendment and Second Amendment issues involved, but I can’t help but wonder if the protest would have stayed peaceful if the police had been a bit more proactive. I’m not saying they should have made any preemptive arrests or told anybody to shut up. But it seems to me they could have at least tried to initiate some communication with all of the protestors to try and reduce the tension.

Updates

In November 2017 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona sued the Phoenix Police Department in order to collect public records regarding its use of force on protesters during President Trump’s August rally.

On November 30, 2017, the Phoenix police released several videos of the police taking action against protestors at the end of rally.

On January 29, 2018, the Phoenix Police Department released a report wherein they admitted they failed to provide adequate warning to peaceful protesters before they abruptly released “pepper balls,” which released a gaseous irritant, deployed pepper spray, tear gas, and fired foam batons into the crowd.

Joe Arpaio’s Tent City Campaign Ad is More Hot Air

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Joe Arpaio (Wikipedia)

Arizona’s controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is running for reelection this fall while endorsing presidential candidate Donald Trump. The 84-year-old Republican sheriff was first elected in 1992 and is running for his seventh term in office. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) serves the Phoenix metro area and is the third largest in the U.S., employing over 3,400 people.

Arpaio has used his skill at self-promotion to become nationally famous. He’s proclaimed himself to be the “toughest sheriff in America” and during his first year in office he created the outdoor Tent City jail. He did it, ostensibly, to address jail overcrowding. But it was also to show that he was being tough on criminals. The inmates live outside in tents, even during the summer, when temperatures in the Sonoran Desert regularly exceed 110 °F during the daytime and stay above 90 °F all night. They are also forced to wear pink underwear and eat poor quality food, such as “green bologna.”

Arpaio’s numerous publicity stunts to portray himself as being tough on crime have earned him a lot of admirers across the country. They’ve helped him raise nearly $10 million for his 2016 reelection campaign. The sheriff’s campaign said said three-fourths of this money came from contributors outside of Arizona.

This enormous war chest is larger than those of most Congressional candidates, and it’s helped him fund some slick campaign ads on the local TV stations. One of them, of course, features his Tent City jail. In the ad Arpaio tells the county’s voters the outdoor facility is saving them money and he concludes by claiming to be “fiscally conservative.”

But Arpaio’s long reign as the county’s sheriff has cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. There are have been multiple negligence and abuse of power legal settlements. And in 2013 U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow ruled that Arpaio’s illegal immigration enforcement campaign had violated the Constitution because his deputies had racially profiled Latinos by making traffic stops and detaining people based upon their race. Then in 2015 the judge initiated contempt proceedings against Arpaio for willingly ignoring his court order to make changes. In August of this year Judge Snow referred Arpaio for criminal prosecution after finding him in contempt of court. All of these things add up to the fact that Arpaio has cost the taxpayers about $142 million in legal fees, court awards, and settlements. And it’s not over yet, because last week the county board of supervisors had to approve another $4.5 million payment in legal fees related to the federal court case.

Furthermore, Arpaio recently had to make $8 million in cuts to his office’s budget to help pay for the extra training and supervisors ordered by Judge Snow. Instead of closing Tent City, however, Arpaio chose to eliminate pay raises for some of his jail detention staff, even though the outdoor jail’s current vacancy rate is about a 63%, and the county’s regular jails are operating with high vacancy rates too. On top of that, the job vacancy rate for detention positions at the MCSO is about 9% . His budget cuts also eliminated the MCSO’s special response team that handled the most dangerous inmates.

The enormous extracurricular expenses incurred by Arpaio have negatively impacted the county’s budget, causing other problems. According to the City of Phoenix, for example, the county has been forced to raise the rate it charges the city to house inmates by almost 30% in the last 5 years. There was also the 2016 presidential preference primary election fiasco, wherein some county voters were forced to wait in line for hours to cast their votes because Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell was trying to save $1 million by reducing the number of polling places. The county supervisors said it was because the legislature had cut state contributions for the funding of primary elections, but the cut would have been easier to absorb without Arpaio’s additional expenses.

Joe Arpaio is a lot things, but fiscally conservative isn’t one of them.

Joe Arpaio Is America’s Costliest Sheriff

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Joe Arpaio (Wikipedia)

The monitor appointed by U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow reported last month that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been too slow in making court ordered changes within his agency to prevent his deputies from racially profiling Latinos.

Judge Snow ruled in 2013 that Arpaio’s office had been overzealous in the enforcement of immigration laws and violated the constitutional rights of Latinos by making traffic stops and detaining people based upon their race. In other words, his deputies broke the law. Snow installed a court monitor to oversee Arpaio’s agency and ordered specific changes be made to ensure that the discriminatory practices were permanently discontinued.

In 2015 Judge Snow initiated contempt proceedings against Arpaio for failing to comply with his court order. It began as a civil contempt hearing, but Arpaio’s office withheld evidence and the testimony revealed he had willfully ignored Snow’s orders. When the hearings ended in November, Judge Snow indicated that he might upgrade the contempt charge from civil to criminal. The court monitor’s recent report that Arpaio’s office is dragging its feet in making the court ordered changes likely increases the odds that Arpaio will face criminal charges when Judge Snow finally issues his contempt ruling.

Arpaio’s discriminatory enforcement of immigration laws wasn’t the first time his deputies violated the constitution. In 2007 they violated the First Amendment with the false arrest of Phoenix New Times newspaper owners Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin for publishing a story Arpaio didn’t like. In late 2013 the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors had to approve a $3.75 million settlement to Lacey and Larkin.

Arpaio Has Cost Taxpayers an Estimated $142 Million

This money, however, is only small portion of the amount Arpaio’s negligence and abuse of power has cost county taxpayers. There are too many incidents to go into here, but the grand total is an estimated $142 million in legal settlements, court awards and legal fees since he was first elected in 1993. And the ongoing federal court case with Judge Snow continues to generate legal expenses.

These costs aren’t without consequences. The March presidential preference election fiasco, wherein the county reduced the number of polling places from 200 to 60, forcing some voters to wait in line for five hours, was the result of trying to minimize the cost of holding the election. Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell was trying to save $1 million, with the approval county’s board of supervisors. They said it was because the state legislature had cut state contributions to the county’s federal election funding by $2.4 million. But that cut would have been easier to absorb if Arpaio hadn’t cost the county so much money.

Last month the Phoenix City Council discussed ways to save money on rising jail costs. The city relies on the Maricopa County jails to house its inmates and the county has increased the rate it charges the city by almost 30% in the last 5 years, partially as a result of the extra costs created by Arpaio.

Furthermore, a county spokesperson explained that their jail rate increases are also “due to fewer people being in the jail” and their need to somehow make up for the loss of revenue. If that’s the case, then why doesn’t Arpaio consider cutting expenses by closing down Tent City Jail? He set it up in 1994 with great media fanfare using surplus military tents to, ostensibly, save money and prevent the release of inmates due to overcrowding in the regular jails.

It’s obvious that Maricopa County’s taxpayers will continue to pay a price as long as Joe Arpaio remains in office.

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