PHOENIX — Phoenix’s top cop promised Monday there are sufficient protections in place for Tuesday’s Trump rally to prevent a repeat of the violent clashes that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia.
And the reason?
“We’ve done this before,” said police Chief Jeri Williams. “This is not new for us.”
The police chief said Phoenix has a long history of being the site of political hot-button events, rallies and marches. And she said the police department has “great working relationships” with many of the groups that expect to turn out both to support and hear the president as well as those who want to “exercise their First Amendment rights” to protest.
That, she said, means they have direct pipelines into those groups to be able to both monitor their plans as well as caution them against certain actions.
President Trump is scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 22, at the Phoenix Convention Center.
Williams sidestepped a direct question on whether her agency would keep opposing sides apart, avoiding the error that resulted in clashes in Virginia when white supremacists who had rallied there came face-to-face with counter-protesters. But she strongly hinted that would be the case.
“Let me answer it this way: When you’ve seen other rallies, if you will, before, you’ve never seen that type of going together type of environment,” she said. And if nothing else, Williams said a buffer zone makes sense for other reasons.
“We plan on creating a situation where people are allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights while still providing access and options for public safety to get in and to people.”
The plans come as Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday opted to stay away from what is clearly a political versus an official presidential event.
There have been hints from the president he might use today’s rally to issue a pardon to former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He was found guilty in federal court of criminal contempt for ignoring a judge’s orders on enforcing federal immigration laws and could face up to six months in jail.
Trump also has telegraphed he may endorse former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who hopes to oust incumbent U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake in next year’s primary for the Senate.
But gubernatorial press aide Daniel Scarpinato said Ducey, who will formally greet Trump at the airport, has a different priority: “working with law enforcement toward a safe event in downtown Phoenix for all those involved and in the area.”
And that, said Scarpinato, means the governor being somewhere other than the Phoenix Convention Center.
Trump has been to Phoenix before. And while there were some demonstrations outside, there were no incidents.