Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio faced protesters and gave a wide-reaching speech on his perspective on other topics at an event hosted by College Republicans United at Arizona State (CRU), sparking controversy based on his history of racial profiling.
Arpaio’s speech to a crowd of approximately 20 people ranged from reflecting on his early endorsement of former President Trump, to speaking about potential dangers of mass communication and modern technology. He was challenged by a couple of audience members who were personally affected by his controversial actions as sheriff, but he left with words for both his supporters and opposers.
"That's why I'm talking to you guys," Arpaio said. "Because you can be our future. By just being here means that you are on the right track."
A group of approximately 40 protestors gathered outside the south entrance of Discovery Hall on Tempe's campus on Wednesday night. The protest was organized by Semillas Arizona, MECHA de ASU, Students for Justice in Palestine at ASU, and Trans Queer Pueblo, among other community groups and ASU-based organizations.
At Arpaio’s arrival, protesters yelled slogans until he entered the building. He later briefly came out of the building again, holding a paper with his name handwritten on it, showing it to the crowd before going inside again.
While inside his event, Arpaio commented on the protesters, referencing the larger debate ASU has faced surrounding freedom of speech.
"Thank you, guys, for inviting the demonstrators. I don’t know if you really did, but you did indirectly," Arpaio said. "I'm big on freedom of speech. I think ASU is going through a big freedom of speech situation."
In the series of speeches from the protesters outside, one speaker reiterated their list of demands published in their press release before the event. This list included banning Arpaio and CRU from campus and opening an immigrant support center within the Multicultural Center. It also included a call for ASU to give up its Hispanic Serving Institution status.
"ASU continuously and historically has proven that they don’t give a crap about their students of color last year," said Joel Cornejo, a media representative for the groups. "They were recognized as a Hispanic Serving Institute. And bringing in Arpaio again, it shows they don’t really serve our community."
Arpaio was previously at an event held by College Republicans United in 2020.
"When I was teaching at that time, he would come in, storm the town, park (a tank) on the corners early in the morning, leave the tank there all day … parents would call me before they came to school and asked if he was in the town," Valenzuela said.
Speeches from protesters also compared the event to the canceled event that would have featured Rep. Rashida Tlaib, saying there was an imbalance in who the University hosts. A police officer briefly made an appearance from inside the building and asked the protestors to clear the entrance, but was shouted down.
The protest organizers ended their demonstrations at 6 p.m., with the CRU event ending at 6:30 p.m.
Edited by Alysa Horton, Walker Smith and Shane Brennan