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‘A slap in the face’: Students protest Joe Arpaio’s CRU-hosted visit to ASU

Protesters said they gathered to show Arpaio's presence was unwelcome on campus

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Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio walks outside to talk to protesters on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, outside Coor Hall on the Tempe campus in Tempe, Arizona. 

Student protesters came out with intensity Wednesday night, marching and chanting across the Tempe campus to voice concerns over the presence of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio at ASU. 

Arpaio was invited by College Republicans United to visit and speak to the group.

The protest lasted about two and a half hours and included students marching across campus, from the Business Administration C-Wing Building to the lower level of Coor Hall. Most of the protest's intensity died down at around 7:30 p.m.

Students for Socialism posted on their Twitter the night before the event, telling others to meet outside of BAC, where the event was initially supposed to be held. However, Wednesday morning CRU announced they would be changing the event's location to Coor Hall. 

Students began to gather to protest outside of BAC an hour before the scheduled event, bringing signs reading "abolish ICE" and "united against Arpaio."

Valeria Lopez, a senior studying women and gender studies, said that although inviting controversial speakers isn’t unusual for CRU, she was shocked that Arpaio would be let on campus in general. 

"Being a daughter of undocumented immigrants, it's kind of like a slap in the face," Lopez said. "It’s a slap in the face to students who are (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students, brown students, queer students — and it co-signs the violence that he's instilled in communities."

Students proceeded toward Coor Hall from BAC while chanting phrases such as "lock him up" and "no hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here."

Arpaio stepped out to address the protesters shortly after their arrival, eliciting louder chants from the crowd. He was surrounded by other event attendees and members of Riders United for a Sovereign America, a motorcycle group described as anti-government by the Southern Poverty Law Center. But instead of speaking to the crowd, Arpaio remained silent and returned inside soon after.

Those alongside him began to get physically and verbally hostile with students. Students responded by yelling back. 

ASU Police Department showed up soon after an altercation between a protester and someone involved with CRU's Arpaio event. ASU PD stood guard at the front of the door for the rest of the evening. 

As the event continued, protesters were still chanting and began to bang against the walls of the room. Police then threatened to start making arrests, saying protesters were disrupting surrounding classes. Things began to quiet down after, with the crowd occasionally renewing its chants.

Freshman Emily Lopez, a biological sciences major and social media coordinator for Students for Socialism, said she thinks that protesting for something like this is important because it's necessary to show others what's worth fighting for. 

"It's important to not let people like (Arpaio) on campus and let them threaten undocumented students," Lopez said. "It gives a notion that people with a horrible background are allowed on campus and ASU is allowing them." 

RELATED: CRU’s invite to Joe Arpaio met with criticism from on-campus leftist groups

MaryKelly Starrs, a junior studying global health and the president of No Más Muertes ASU, said that they were gathered to show Arpaio that he shouldn't feel like he has authority over them.

"A lot of students at ASU are students of color, undocumented immigrants," Starrs said. "(Arpaio's) not talking about opinions; (he's) threatening the livelihood of people."

Arpaio praised CRU for holding the event even while facing backlash. 

"ASU knew you were going to have these demonstrators right here, disrupting everything and maybe causing some security issues," Arpaio said. "I'm sure they could have stopped this." 

Inside the event, Arpaio spoke about his early days with the federal government and how he thought his work against illegal immigration protected cities all over the U.S. 

"I'm America's toughest sheriff," Arpaio said. "I did what I said I was going to do." 

Arpaio repeated his support for President Donald Trump, saying "Trump is right in a lot of things he's doing." 

During the question and answer part of the meeting, Arpaio said, "I had more people in jail than in your whole state," to a person from Delaware.

Arpaio said that he enjoys speaking to young audiences, as they are the future of the U.S, adding that "I love talking to the young people, I don't care who they are," referencing youth from across the political spectrum. 

The protest began to disperse after ASU PD said repeatedly that officers would start arresting disruptive people. Protesters continued to yell after Arpaio was escorted out by police officers and Riders USA at the end of the event.

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