PHOENIX, March 19, 2016 — Phoenix law enforcement officials arrested three protesters outside a Donald Trump rally in Fountain Hills, Arizona, on Saturday. They were part of a group of about 200 that blocked traffic on the eastbound lanes of Shea Boulevard, the main road leading to the Trump rally that featured Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Another 100 protesters stopped their cars on the westbound lanes of Shea Boulevard, further blocking access to the rally.
The rally drew thousands to hear Trump and Arpaio speak. Maricopa County Sheriff Deputy Joaquin Enriquez said that officers would ask the protesters to move and if they didn’t comply, they would forcibly remove them. The three protesters arrested chained themselves to their cars to delay getting towed. Officers arrested them after cutting them loose from their vehicles.
The rally started almost an hour behind schedule, and Arpaio blamed the protesters in his opening remarks. “I know we had a little problem, some demonstrators tried to disrupt …” he said, interrupted by booing from the crowd. “Because of them you had to get a little more sunshine, but we made it.” The crowd broke out in cheers when the sheriff added, “And three of them are in jail.”
Francisca Porchas, one of the organizers of the protest, released a statement from the group, the Puente Movement. “It’s a slap in the face to the Latino community for him to be here joined by Sheriff Joe Arpaio who has actively terrorized the Latino community and is the biggest symbol of anti-immigrant racism across the country.”
Protests have become the norm at and outside of Trump’s campaign rallies. Trump’s speech focused on immigration, and he once again promised to build a wall that nobody will be “going under or over.” His supporters chanted “U.S.A., U.S.A,” as demonstrators made their way through the crowd shouting “Stop the hate.”
The arrests and roadblock come as clashes between protesters and supporters at Trump rallies have escalated. Those clashes have led to one North Carolina Trump backer’s being charged with assault for punching a protester, the cancellation of a Trump rally in Chicago over safety concerns and the head of the Republican Party’s condemning the violence.
Trump, the favorite to win his party’s nomination for the Nov. 8 presidential election, currently leads in opinion polls ahead of Arizona’s March 22 primary, according to a Real Clear Politics polling average. He leads Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas by 13 percentage points.