Protesters block highway leading to Trump rally in Phoenix

PHOENIX — Protesters blocked a main highway leading into the Phoenix suburb Saturday where Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump was preparing to hold a campaign rally alongside Arizona’s revered Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The protesters parked their cars in the middle of the road Saturday, unfurling banners reading “Dump Trump” and “Must Stop Trump,” and chanting “Trump is hate.” Traffic was backed up for miles, with drivers honking in fury.

The disruption occurred well after large crowds lined up to get into the Fountain Hills rally. Maricopa County Sheriff Deputy Joaquin Enriquez said officers will ask the protesters to move and if they don’t comply, they will forcibly remove them.

Trump and Arpaio have formed a political alliance in recent months, and the brash billionaire hopes Arizona can serve as a model on how he could win in November.

The tough-talking lawman won six straight elections as sheriff of Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and nearly two-thirds of Arizona’s population. He forced jail inmates to wear pink underwear and live outside in tents during triple-digit heat. He launched dragnets to round up people in the country illegally, and a judge ruled that his operations illegally targeted Latinos. Arpaio then launched an investigation that critics contend ended up targeting the judge.

Now, as Trump looks toward the general election, Arpaio and Arizona – the next major state to vote in the presidential nominating contest – show how conservative populists can thrive even in states with growing minority populations. Arizona votes Tuesday in a winner-take-all Republican primary as well as a Democratic race.

In Arizona, though, Republicans like Arpaio have prospered by winning an increasing share of the white vote even as the number of Latinos in the state has risen from one-quarter of the state’s population to 31 percent in 2014.

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