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Protesters, Supporters Greet "America's Toughest Sheriff" In Carmel Valley

Protesters about equaled the number of supporters who attended a fundraising luncheon featuring former Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Carmel Valley Thursday. 

KAZU’s Erika Mahoney and Doug McKnight were both there.  Erika was outside to talk with protesters.  Doug went inside to hear what the self-proclaimed "America's toughest sheriff" had to say.

Krista Almanzan (KA): So Erika, he was invited to speak at the Monterey Peninsula Republican Women Federated’s annual fundraising luncheon. Tell us about this group and why they invited him.

Erika Mahoney (EM): This is the local chapter of the National Federation of Republican Women.  Locally, they have about 125 active members.

Why Joe Arpaio? The group’s President Karen Reissman told me she looks for interesting people to invite to this luncehon. It's their biggest fundraiser of the year.

KA: About 150-200 people didn’t find this invite interesting and they showed up to protest outside.  Set the scene.  What happened?

EM: The event took place at Palo Corona Regional Park, the old Rancho Canada golf course. The luncheon was inside the clubhouse. There was a metal gate set up around the clubhouse and part of the parking lot. So the protesters were outside that gate in a grassy field. The signs read things like, ”Resist Prejudice” and “Just Say No To Joe.”

The message was that what Joe Arpaio stands for is not what Monterey County stands for.

Here’s Lex Taylor, a college student who came to the protest.

“There is pretty much nothing redeemable about Joe Arpaio. It is a moral obligation more than anything else to really stand against that kind of, I don’t know what else, uh what word to use beside just honestly pure evil,” said Taylor.

Arpaio is widely criticized for his former “Tent City Jail” that operated in the hot Arizona desert where he was sheriff. He’s known for targeting Latinos. Last year, he was convicted of criminal contempt for disobeying a judge’s order to stop racial profiling. President Trump later pardoned him.

So Thursday’s demonstration was also a celebration of Latino culture. There was a Mariachi band and a taco truck. Here’s Ricardo Nunez with United Farm Workers Foundation.

“All the people that we serve is an immigrant community and mostly the people that we serve are farmworkers. Those are the hardworkers that provide food to your table. So that’s extremely important,” said Nunez.  

A few Trump and Arpaio supporters did come to the demonstration and that caused a little tension.  But overall, the protest was peaceful.

KA: And Doug, what happened inside?

Doug McKnight (DM): The crowd inside was reserved but festive. There were about 200 people and they came from all over, some from as far away as San Jose and Soledad. And for the most part they came for one reason, to hear Sheriff Joe. Betty Bishoff and Carlos Estrada both said they came with an open mind.

“I’ll be honest with you, I have not read up on Joe Arpaio as much as just hearing about the negative stuff.  So I thought, well, I want to hear what he has to say,” said Bishoff.

“I’m a Republican, and I’m interested in hearing what other Republicans have to say.  We’re kind of a minority at this point in California. And you know, I’ve seen Joe on TV and thought, well, let’s give him a listen,” said Estrada.

Most of the people I spoke with agreed, they just wanted to hear what the nation’s self-proclaimed toughest sheriff had to say.

KA: What did Joe Arpaio say in his speech?

DM: He took the stage with a standing ovation.  He talked briefly about his life story, most of it in law enforcement. He told a personal story about how his mother died giving birth to him and how that formed his opposition to abortion. 

And then he got to the red meat. He reiterated his claim that President Obama’s birth certificate is a fake.  He said he has been called a racist, but he added a lot of people are called racists. And he talked about President Trump and the wall.

“And on the illegal immigration, why it has been reduced is because he is telling everybody over his Twitter he is going to lock them all up. When you say you will lock them up (applause) someone doesn’t come,” said Arpaio.

And his speech ended with another standing ovation from the crowd inside.

KA: So was there a takeaway for either group?

DM: The takeaway message inside was the party needs to get out and vote. They hoped events like this will energize their party going into the midterms.

EM: Same on the outside. In fact, there was a voter registration table at the event.

Krista joined KAZU in 2007. She is an award winning journalist with more than a decade of broadcast experience. Her stories have won regional Edward R. Murrow Awards and honors from the Northern California Radio and Television News Directors Association. Prior to working at KAZU, Krista reported in Sacramento for Capital Public Radio and at television stations in Iowa. Like KAZU listeners, Krista appreciates the in-depth, long form stories that are unique to public radio. She's pleased to continue that tradition in the Monterey Bay Area.
Doug joined KAZU in 2004 as Development Director overseeing fundraising and grants. He was promoted to General Manager in 2009 and is currently retired and working part time in membership fundraising and news reporting at KAZU.
Erika joined KAZU in 2016. Her roots in radio began at an early age working for the independent community radio station in her hometown of Boulder, Colorado. After graduating from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in 2012, Erika spent four years working as a television reporter. She’s very happy to be back in public radio and loves living in the Monterey Bay Area.
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