TUCSON, Ariz. — Donald Trump’s campaign for all of Arizona’s Republican delegates is centered on the hard line against illegal immigration that he’s taken from the start, and it’s a message his supporters lapped up in a series of tense weekend gatherings leading into Tuesday’s presidential primaries in the border state.
“Illegal immigration is gonna stop,” Trump vowed in Tucson on Saturday night. “It’s dangerous,” he said. “Terrible.”
Both in Phoenix and Tucson, Trump was introduced by former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who pushed tough immigration laws in office, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who made his name by chasing down people who are in the country illegally.
Protesters showed up at every event, blockading the main road into his outdoor Phoenix rally for several hours before it started, and interrupting him and being thrown out in Tucson late in the day. Trump treated the latest protests with a mix of pacifist rhetoric and a mocking tone. “We love our protesters, don’t we?” he asked. As security removed one or more, he said: “We want to do it with love,” then added bitingly, “Get ‘em outta here.”
At the indoor Tucson rally, one protester carried a sign with an image of a Confederate flag over an image of Trump and another wore a Ku Klux Klan-style sheet. A man in the crowd attacked the protester with the Confederate sign, kicking and punching him before being arrested. The protesters were led out by security.
As the rally attendees later streamed out of the Trump rally, protesters hurled two water bottles at them and called them racists.
Arizona Democrats vote Tuesday, too, and Democratic contender Bernie Sanders campaigned at the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona. Standing in front of a tall, steel fence that divides the two countries, Sanders promised to keep immigrant families together by taking more steps than President Barack Obama has done to protect many from deportation. He branded Arpaio a bully and slammed the “divisive, bigoted and xenophobic comments of people like Donald Trump.”
His opponent, front-runner Hillary Clinton, planned rallies in Arizona on Monday.
Tempers flared at Trump’s large outdoor gathering in Phoenix, but without the violence that marred his event in Chicago a week before.
For hours, about two dozen protesters parked their cars in the middle of the main road to the event, unfurling banners reading “Dump Trump” and “Must Stop Trump,” and chanting “Trump is hate.” Traffic was backed up for miles, with drivers honking in fury.
The road was eventually cleared and protesters marched down the highway to the rally site, weaving between Trump supporters who booed and jeered them.
Trump supporter Geroy Morgan, 62, made it to the rally but was furious at the demonstrators, some of whom still stood around after the event ended.
“We come here, the silent majority, to express our opinions,” Morgan said. “They don’t have any permits or rights.”
David Nelson, 62, had to walk about four miles to the rally because demonstrators had blocked the road. “You don’t see me at Bernie’s disrupting their crowd,” he said, referring to Sanders. “I give them respect.”
Associated Press writers Astrid Galvan in Tucson, Nicholas Riccardi in Phoenix and Vivian Salama in Washington and contributed to this report.
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