In a sharply worded op-ed in the Washington Post, Phoenix’s Democratic mayor, Greg Stanton, repeated his request for President Trump to delay a campaign rally at the Phoenix Convention Center planned for Tuesday night.
Stanton’s op-ed, published Monday afternoon online and Tuesday morning in print, reads in part: “America is hurting. And it is hurting largely because Trump has doused racial tensions with gasoline. With his planned visit to Phoenix on Tuesday, I fear the president may be looking to light a match.”
Stanton referred in his op-ed to the deadly violence that took place at a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12. After the march, President Trump blamed the violence “on many sides,” refusing to specifically condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
Trump initially walked back that statement, calling out the “KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups” as “repugnant,” but he then doubled down on his first sentiment, saying there were “very fine people on both sides” at the march.
Stanton took to Twitter in the following days to request that the president delay his rally in Arizona. “It is my hope that more sound judgment prevails and that [Trump] delays his visit,” he wrote. In addition to citing the violence in Charlottesville as a reason to delay, the mayor cautioned, “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.”
Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio — whose controversial track record included, per Politico, running an “open-air ‘tent city’ jail in the scorching Arizona heat” — was recently convicted of criminal contempt for having willfully violated a court order to stop his department from racially profiling members of Maricopa’s Latino population.
In his Washington Post op-ed, Stanton expanded on his ultimatum regarding Trump’s rumored intent to pardon Arpaio:
Let’s be clear: A pardon of Arpaio can be viewed only as a presidential endorsement of the lawlessness and discrimination that terrorized Phoenix’s Latino community. Choosing to announce it in Phoenix — especially in the wake of Charlottesville — would add insult to very serious injury and would reveal that the president’s true intent is to further divide our nation.
After describing how Latino residents of Maricopa lived in fear of the policies Arpaio practiced, Stanton continued:
Even before his trial and conviction, voters grew tired of Arpaio’s brand of racism and blatant violation of the law. Last year, in an overwhelmingly Republican county, Arpaio lost by nearly 10 points. Although local Republicans helped defeat Arpaio, the white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other racists who shamed our country this month in Charlottesville would surely cheer a presidential pardon.
Indeed, there’s reason to believe local residents aren’t pleased with the president either. Trump only narrowly won Arizona’s electoral votes in 2016 — and his approval ratings, while higher in Arizona than nationally, are still below 50 percent in the state.
Most recently, Arizona Sen. McCain cast the final vote that killed the GOP Obamacare repeal effort, and the state’s junior senator, Jeff Flake, published a scathing essay in Politico Magazine, excerpted from a forthcoming book, in which he suggested that nominating Trump was the Republican Party’s “Faustian bargain.”
McCain, Flake, and the state’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, all plan to skip the rally tonight. Meanwhile, the Arizona Republic reported that a number of anti-Trump demonstrations are planned for Tuesday night outside the rally.