This week’s meeting of the College Republicans at ASU was over before it began. The student-led organization intended to have Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio as a special speaker Thursday evening at the W. P. Carey School of Business on the Tempe campus.
Political science junior Diego Moya, president of the College Republicans, stood in the over-crowded room and said the meeting was not happening.
“I would just like to thank you and sorry for the (poor accommodations),” he said.
The announcement happened after members of the organization and an ASU Police officer said the event was private and asked the audience to avoid being disruptive. The crowd agreed, but a few minutes later, Moya told them it had been officially cancelled.
Protesters gathered around the room where Arpaio met some members of the College Republicans and waited until he was able to leave. ASU Police stood outside the room.
Transborder studies senior Tony Verdugo, who wore a T-shirt that read “Do I look illegal?” said things escalated quickly and unnecessarily.
“It was peaceful until the College Republicans came in with their five warnings,” he said. “They told us in the room that it was cancelled, they walked out and had (the meeting) in another room.”
The organization had to know it would be a heated meeting, Verdugo said.
Verdugo was one of the main voices that filled the corridors with cries of “Let us in!” and “They told us to go away; we said, ‘No way!’” as Moya stood trying to answer the protesters’ questions.
“None of us were planning on being disruptive,” he said. “They cancelled the meeting on an assumption based on our beliefs.”
The decision was made to ensure the students, the organization and Arpaio were safe, Moya said.
“Out of security concerns we cancelled the event,” he said. “There was a lot of input in the decision. It was a decision of various people.”
Moya said protester presence was not surprising, but the organization expected more Arpaio supporters to show up.
A day earlier, Moya said he welcomed everybody into the meeting, not just members of the organization.
“We want to hear the other side of the argument,” he said. “We open our events to everybody. Whether you love him or hate him, we want you to come.”
At one point, students outside the room where Arpaio was waiting to leave began to chant, “Shame on you, Diego (Moya).”
“You take the punches. … You have to stand up for what you believe in,” he said after Arpaio and the protesters had left. “There needs to be a (Latino) voice in the Republican Party.”
Justice studies senior Jose Prado heard about the event after he was invited through a Facebook event. It was set as a public function.
“If they wanted to make it private, they could have made it so,” he said. “I think the cancellation was a slick move by them. They don’t want us there, obviously.”
Prado said he believed the College Republicans allowed people who were not members of the organization to meet Arpaio as long as they were not protesters.
“They’re not willing to hold a public dialogue,” he said. “(Moya) came out with good intentions … but he obviously was afraid.”
Prado did not plan to be disruptive in any way, he said.
“Our intent was to have a dialogue,” he said. “I wanted to be respectful (and) to hear him speak.”
Electrical engineering sophomore Joel Wright, who is a member of the College Republicans, said Arpaio was the best-known speaker the organization has had since he had joined. He said the event was probably cancelled because of lack of preparation.
“If we had been a little bit more prepared to handle it, it could have been avoided altogether,” he said. “Nothing really happened until people came in with the warning … but before that, I wasn’t weary of anything.”
The protesters had acted peacefully before the cancellation, Wright said.
“Everyone just has different expectations of what it was supposed to be,” he said.
Wright invited business law junior Ethan McRae to the event. McRae said he was looking forward to hearing Arpaio speak, because he agrees with some of his policies.
“There’s obviously some lapse in communication (and) maybe a little lack in organization as far as the meeting goes,” he said. “There was a lot of tension in the room, (and) I can understand Sheriff Arpaio’s hesitation.”
McRae said it would have been easier to handle disruptions if the program had occurred as it had been planned, but the leadership was not prepared for so many people showing up.
“I do understand that they do reserve the fact that they monitor the meetings and establish the rules,” he said.
Moya said the protesters had a right to demonstrate outside the room, and he understood their complaints.
“It was the heat of the moment,” he said. “Protesters will get heated up. … It’s politics. They chanted, (and) they did what they had to do.”
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Clarification: According to the Arizona Federation of College Republicans, the College Republicans at ASU, which hosted the event covered in this story, is not affiliated with the Arizona Federation of College Republicans, the ASU College Republicans nor are they the recognized as the official College Republicans Chapter at ASU.