PHOENIX (AP) — More than 1,000 critics of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio are expected to gather Saturday night for a rally to call for the closure of the sheriff’s complex of canvas jail tents.
Organizers say conditions in Arpaio’s “Tent City” complex are inhumane.
The sheriff has said he doesn’t see any problems with housing inmates in tents and often points out that some members of the U.S. military live in tents.
Arpaio will be at the protest to defend his policies and has offered to give tours of Tent City to a few protesters.
The county’s jails will be closed to visitors on Saturday in anticipation of the rally.
Arpaio is a national political fixture who built his reputation on jailing inmates in tents during Phoenix’s triple-digit summer heat, dressing inmates in pink underwear, selling himself to voters as unceasingly tough on crime and pushing the bounds of how far local police can go to confront illegal immigration.
The U.S. Justice Department has accused the sheriff’s office of racially profiling Latinos in its immigration patrols.
The sheriff has said the Justice Department’s investigation of his immigration patrols was a politically motivated attack by the Obama administration and denied allegations of systematic discriminatory policing.
The jail complex in west Phoenix was the site of a January 2010 protest that drew 10,000 immigrant rights advocates and was marked by a clash between a small group of protesters and police officers.
The rally is being held by the immigrant rights group Puente Arizona and the Unitarian Universalist Association, which is holding its annual convention in Phoenix this weekend.
The Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, is expected to attend the rally. In 2010, Morales was arrested at a protest in Phoenix over Arizona’s immigration law.
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