The normally quiet town of Fountain Hills got a change of pace Saturday morning during a campaign stop by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump at Fountain Park.
As expected, the Republican frontrunner focused on illegal immigration into the United States, including building a physical wall across the U.S.-Mexico border.
The lake-and-fountain background proved a luxurious setting for Trump to share his message with supporters, who responded with cheers and signs.
“Unless you have a border, you don’t have a country, folks,” Trump said, repeating that as president he would build a wall.
“We’re going to have a real border, because we’re going to have a wall,” Trump shouted. “We’re going to have a big, beautiful wall that nobody is crossing, and nobody is going underneath either.”
When speaking about the border, Trump singled out GOP nominee John Kasich, who he called “weak on immigration.”
“That’s the end for him, as far as Phoenix is concerned,” Trump said.
Trump’s other statements concerned military expansion, the dissolution of Common Core education standards, outsourcing of businesses and the Second Amendment.
He was introduced by three of his biggest endorsements thus far: Arizona State Treasurer Jeff DeWit, former Gov. Jan Brewer and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio, like Trump, spent much of his time criticizing Mexico, including former Mexican President Vicente Fox.
“America is now going to realize where Fountain Hills, Arizona is,” Arpaio said when introducing Trump.
Trump protesters took a new tack on Saturday, attempting to block his supporters from reaching the Fountain Hills event. An hour before the Trump rally started, about a hundred protesters from various immigrant-rights groups blocked an extensive section of traffic along Shea Boulevard headed to the rally. Some protesters even chained themselves to car doors.
The blockade had a major impact on those headed to the rally, as Shea Boulevard is one of the major ways to get to Fountain Park. Arizona Department of Transportation announced a closure of the road, which fully reopened more than an hour later.
Maricopa County Sheriff’s deputies arrested at least 3 of the protesters. Arpaio announced that to some of the loudest cheers from the Trump supporters.
A large group of protesters with signs and megaphones then headed to the rally location, followed by law-enforcement vehicles. They chanted from the back section of the audience throughout Trump’s entire appearance.
The Fountain Park rally was his second of the day in Arizona. He joined conservative media personality Sean Hannity in the early morning for a taped event at the Phoenix Convention Center. He was headed to Tucson for an afternoon event.
Most of the presidential candidates are appearing in the state this weekend ahead of Tuesday’s presidential preference election. Ted Cruz was in Phoenix Friday night. Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders has held several events and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to appear on Monday.
People formed a line to enter the Trump rally in Fountain Park before 6 a.m Saturday. It soon curved around the lake and onto the sidewalk, with supporters carrying handmade signs, wearing buttons with statements such as bomb ISIS and sporting Trump’s signature hat.
George Clifton, 63, traveled from his cabin near the Grand Canyon to speak out against Trump’s message on undocumented immigrants and Latinos. He engaged in sometimes tense debate with people waiting in line.
“I’m worried he’s going to win and deport the undocumented,” Clifton said. “People who are Anglo tell me I’m a traitor.”
Meanwhile, some Trump supporters came to the rally to counter-protest any protesters. Sue Tolly from Mesa was one of those people, part of a group who included “police rights” advocates.
Tolly said she was upset Trump’s scheduled rally in Chicago last week was canceled because of “security concerns,” when fights broke out between protesters and supporters.
“A shut down (like Chicago) is not acceptable,” Tolly said, adding that Trump has a right to free speech and assembly.
Zander Buel, 23, from Scottsdale, came to the rally with friends to “check out what goes on here” and to look out for “eccentric” Trump supporters.
Buel found the lack of ethnic diversity among Trump supporters at the rally remarkable.
“It feels strange to me looking behind the (merchandise) booths and seeing they’re being manned by people of color,” Buel said. “That amazes me.”
By Miguel Otárola