WASHINGTON (CNN) — Dozens of protesters were blocking traffic near a Donald Trump event in Arizona on Saturday.
The demonstrators have parked vehicles sideways on Shea Boulevard, blocking both lanes of traffic into Fountain Hills, Arizona, where Trump is scheduled to hold a rally Saturday afternoon, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Joaquin Enriquez told CNN.
Enriquez described Shea Boulevard as the main artery into the area and the protesters’ actions are causing motorists to drive into oncoming traffic as they try to get around them. Traffic was backed up for miles due to the blockage.
“This is causing huge issues for us,” Enriquez told CNN, adding that authorities were in the process of towing the vehicles.
“If it continues, obviously, it might lead to arrests,” Enriquez said, adding that the arrests would be due to blocking the road, not demonstrating against Trump.
“We obviously have to get this road open,” Enriquez added.
Protests at Trump rallies increasingly have become more contentious in recent days. Friday night, protesters outside a Trump rally in Salt Lake City, Utah, tried to breach the venue’s doors, causing police officers and Secret Service officers to abruptly shut them as Trump was speaking. And last week, scuffles between protesters and supporters in Chicago led Trump to cancel a rally there.
Trump on Saturday is set to appear with Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who endorsed the GOP front-runner in January. Arpaio rose to conservative fame with his aggressive roundups of undocumented immigrants and attention-grabbing tactics like clothing inmates in pink underwear.
Speaking to CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield, Arpaio said authorities are “going to do everything we can to continue to have this rally,” adding that authorities are “ready for any problems.” He wasn’t aware of any arrests.
“We’ll do everything possible to make sure we have free speech in this country. Donald Trump has a right to speak out and the people have a right to go in there and hear him speak,” Arpaio said. “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.”
While the protest in Arizona was underway, scores of demonstrators gathered in Manhattan to march from Columbus Circle to Trump Tower. A small skirmish erupted when protesters started throwing water bottles at police, who were trying to keep them out of traffic.
Several protesters were pepper-sprayed and arrests were made.