Donald Trump protesters blockade road leading to Arizona rally

By Eric DuVall   |   Updated March 19, 2016 at 5:53 PM
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PHOENIX, March 19 (UPI) -- Three people were arrested Saturday afternoon after protesters parked cars sideways on a busy road outside Phoenix, blocking the main path to a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The protest caused cars on the divided road to cross over into oncoming traffic as about 50 people milled around in the street between the cars parked to stop traffic.

Maricopa County Sheriff's Deputy Joaquin Enriquez said tow trucks were brought in to clear the road, but traffic was backed up for miles ahead of Trump's appearance.

Photos posted on Twitter by the protest group Puente Arizona showed the protesters praying in the street. One woman had tied her neck to the open door of a vehicle parked to block traffic.

Trump rallies have generated heated, sometimes violent protests across the country, and protesters have clashed with police and Trump supporters. The specter of that happening in Maricopa County was magnified with the presence of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has been a lightning rod for his get-tough stance on illegal immigrants.

Arpaio has maintained a "tent city" jail where inmates are made to sit outside in the Arizona sun. Arpaio has instructed deputies to pull over Hispanics while driving to see if they are in the country illegally — even if there is no evidence of wrongdoing. He has been sued multiple times and has twice been slapped by the U.S. Justice Department for civil rights violations.

Arpaio has endorsed Trump and Trump has returned the favor, bragging about the endorsement and saying it shows he is the toughest candidate in the race on immigration. Trump has proposed building a wall the entire length of the U.S.-Mexican border.

Prior to the event, Arpaio told Politico he was ready for the protesters, saying it "is going to be a lot of fun taking care of business there."

In an appearance on CNN, Arpaio said his deputies would ensure free-speech rights were granted to Trump supporters if protesters tried disrupting the rally.

"We'll do everything possible to make sure we have free speech in this country," Arpaio said. "Donald Trump has a right to speak out and the people have a right to go in there and hear him speak. If certain groups don't like it, that's OK. They have freedom of speech, but they're not going to violate any laws. They're going to have to pay the consequences."

Another anti-Trump protest sprung up on the opposite side of the country in New York City on Saturday, where demonstrators marched from Columbus Circle to Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. CNN reports some protesters threw water bottles at police officers who were trying to prevent the protesters from impeding traffic.

CNN said police used pepper spray on several protesters and a handful of individuals were taken into police custody. It was not immediately clear if anyone was charged.

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