Protesters and counter-protesters faced off on the corner of Kings Canyon Road and Phillips Avenue for a Fresno GOP event fundraiser headlined by former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Sept. 29.
People began to arrive shortly after 4 p.m and an American Civil Liberties Union mobile billboard truck was on the scene around half an hour later.
Those protesting Arpaio stood on the corner near an Arco gas station, and counter-protesters in support of Arpaio and Trump gathered across the street.
By 4:40 p.m. counter-protesters were chanting, “Build that wall.”
There were about 350 protesters by 5 p.m., outnumbering the nearly 30 counter-protesters.
As the evening went on, protesters did cross the street and confront counter-protesters which lead to heated argument and shouting. “No, you’re racist,” was a back and forth accusation heard when people from both sides would clash.
Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer would sometimes step in between people that were arguing, and other officers did have to separate people in confrontational exchanges.
By 6:30 p.m., protesters had overtaken the side of the street first held by the people in support of Arpaio.
Dyer said that they [police department] had anticipated that there would be 400 people and expected a 10 to 1 ratio of people protesting against Arpaio versus those there to show support for him.
“It’s been very heated and what we are trying to do is get in the middle of it to make sure that they are separated and give them a reasonable distance,” said Dyer. “Emotions are high and it’s potential for a lot of things to happen.”
There were police barricades closer the building where the fundraiser was taking place, and only those attending the event and members of the media were allowed to pass through.
Several local political activists and and spiritual leaders stood with the protesters, and Fresno County Prosecutor Andrew Janz and Fresno Businessman Ricardo Franco, who are both running for candidacy for the 22nd Congressional District, were there on the side of the protesters.
“This is a rare opportunity for the people in the Central Valley to stand up, and share their voice to the world to show that what Arpaio is doesn’t represent us,” Franco said. “He represents a strong rift in between local communities of color and law enforcement.
Arpaio made recent headlines when he was convicted of racially profiling Latinos after being prohibited by a federal judge, and when he was later pardoned by Trump.
Though there is a documented history of Arpaio’s racial profiling of Latinos, failing to investigate victims of sex crimes in his jails, maintaining inhumane conditions for inmates, and undermining the health of jail detainees, he still has his supporters.
An Arpaio supporter at the protest who only identified herself as Michelle says that she wa standing for freedom and the law and she did not believe he got a fair trial from a “liberal judge.” She said immigrants are a drain on the economy and that they should come here legally.
“How rude is it to everyone who is doing it the right way,” Michelle said. “I’ve spoken to several immigrants and they’re now American citizens and they’re like, ‘We did it the right way, why can’t they?’”
There was a diverse crowd of all races and ages in protest of Arpaio, and though they did get loud, they remained peaceful.
Only a few Arpaio supporters and about 100 protesters were present at around 8:15 p.m. and nearly 20 minutes later there were only about 30 people there in total and there were no serious incidents or arrests.
Eighth grade student at Computech Middle School,Roan Gordon, attended to help bring attention to the event and would play a portable drum to follow the chants of the crowd.
“I think it’s really important that our voice is heard and that things like this can’t go unnoticed by the public eye,” Gordon said. “I think a lot of the things that Trump has done has been pushed under the rug and we are out here to really make a difference to try and strike back.”