PHOENIX - President Trump is headed to Arizona on Aug. 22, his first campaign stop after Charlottesville.
And with rumors swirling that he could pardon Joe Arpaio, maybe even on stage, it’s almost certain there will be protests outside the Phoenix Convention Center, where the rally is being held.
With Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville still fresh on everyone’s mind, the main concern is safety.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton released this statement Wednesday afternoon calling on Trump to delay his visit.
“I am disappointed that President Trump has chosen to hold a campaign rally as our nation is still healing from the tragic events in Charlottesville. If President Trump is coming to Phoenix to announce a pardon for former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, then it will be clear that his true intent is to enflame emotions and further divide our nation.
It is my hope that more sound judgment prevails and that he delays his visit.
With regard to use of the Phoenix Convention Center for the rally: This is a public facility and open to anyone to rent – and that includes the Trump campaign. Our Constitution protects the right to free speech, even for those we disagree with or those who don’t represent the values we hold dear as a community.In preparation for this event, my focus and that of the Phoenix Police Department is on keeping everyone – those attending the rally, those expressing their First Amendment rights outside and the general public – safe.”
With protests already being planned and promoted on social media, law enforcement faces a conundrum: finding a balance between allowing people to practice free speech as the constitution allows, and keeping the peace.
"We are going to be strong and hold the line, hold those accountable who break the law," Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said. "But our ability to manage those circumstances is complicated due to the volume of the crowd, the intentions of those who are involved and the weaponry or other tools that they bring that have no legitimate purpose in a setting such as that."
Penzone said deputies would be on the lookout for weapons like the ones carried by white supremacists in Charlottesville.
"There is no legitimate or reasonable purpose for civilians who go to protest peacefully to bring weaponry, whether it is shields or bats, or in Arizona, where we’re an open-carry state," he said.
The Phoenix Police Department said it is in contact with the organizers who’ve announced their protests to find out exactly what’s going on and make sure everyone is safe. But police say it’s the organizers that aren’t announcing themselves that could cause some problems.
Police won’t go into detail about the security plan, but they say it is being finalized. Security is expected to be on the level of the Super Bowl or NCAA Final Four Championship. Police said to expect delays for traffic and security checkpoints.
Sgt. Vince Lewis with the Phoenix PD said if one of the protests should get violent, police are prepared.
“Part of the tactical response unit is taking a look at what’s going on outside of our community and helping to formulate plans for that. So again, we have contingency plans ready to go at a moment’s notice,” Lewis said.
Inside the convention center, the Trump campaign is expected to draw thousands. The rally is expected to take up about half the available space on the third floor.
City officials cannot yet say how many people that will hold until they know what the setup is going to be.
Tickets are already up for grabs on the Trump campaign website. According to the registration form, you can only get two tickets per phone number.
Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams released the following statement Thursday:
“By now, you probably have heard that President Trump is coming to Phoenix for a rally on Tuesday, August 22nd. While Phoenix is not immune from critical incidents, I want you to know that your city is working hard to ensure another safe event.
Because high profile events are common in Phoenix, we are well prepared to handle another Presidential visit. Our experience with other dignitary visits, Super Bowls, music festivals, major professional and collegiate sporting events, allows us to quickly deploy resources that keep our residents and visitors safe.
At all times, the Phoenix Police Department has officers assigned to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center to constantly monitor and evaluate activities that may impact our local communities. These long term partnerships with other local, state, and federal agencies, help ensure that information is shared and acted upon in a seamless manner.
In addition to partnerships with other law enforcement agencies and City Departments, we have active relationships with local community organizers in order to obtain the most current and accurate information regarding any related events directly from the source.
While I won’t discuss specifics regarding our security planning, I want everyone to know that our preparations are well underway. We will have maximum staffing during the visit and are working 24/7 with our partners to ensure all of our resources are in place. We do expect a lot of activity in the downtown area but we are prepared to minimize the impact to area businesses and residents. As always, I expect our officers will remain professional, decisive, and immediately responsive should the need arise.For those who plan to be in the downtown area, we encourage you to plan ahead. Expect delays for traffic and security checkpoints. Be mindful of the weather as heat and thunderstorms may be in the forecast. Be aware of your surroundings and, as always, if you see something, say something.”