A protest of Arizona Sherriff Joe Arpaio's visit to Mountain View turned strange on Tuesday when the controversial man approached protesters who said his policies amount to "hate."
A group of 25 protesters stood at the entrance to the IFES Portugese Hall on Stierlin Road, chanting at attendees as they pulled into the parking lot of the event held by the Conservative Forum of Silicon Valley.
"He was trying to provoke us by being confrontational-- that's his personal style I guess," said Maria Marroquin, director of Mountain View Day Worker Center.
There was a mixture of responses. Some tried arguing with him. At least one person gave the man a hug. Marroquin said she told him, "We want to welcome you to our community."
One protester said he was trying to humanize himself, and another witness said Arpaio told the crowd that he has family members of "mixed descent" who he doesn't talk about.
Protest signs said: "Sheriff Joe, you must go," and called him a "racial profiler and tormenter." The Raging Grannies staged a skit where Arapio and ICE agents arrested immigrants.
Conservative Forum board member Howard Myers later approached the crowd. When asked why Arpaio was invited to Mountain View, he said, "Because there's a demand for people who speak honestly and obey the law," adding that when it comes to such folks, "we have to import them."
"Our strategies for community are better than his strategies for hate," said Claire Ryan, a Santa Clara University student who was holding a banner that said "No human being is illegal." She was joined by fellow SCU student Lauren Farwell, who wore a shirt that said "Migration is beautiful" with a picture of butterfly and held a sign that said "Dreams are stronger than fear."
A U.S. District court recently found that Arpaio's department was guilty of racially profiling Latinos in his department's controversial immigration patrols, where those who are suspected to have crossed the Mexican border illegally are detained before their status is determined for long periods of time, the court found. Arpaio was ordered to spend $22 million to retrain and monitor his officers. Myers dismissed the court's findings, blaming it on a "judge who isn't rational."
"His thing was that (immigrants) were wrong for coming here illegally, but there's a reason people are coming to the U.S." said Mountain View resident Marilu Delgado of Arpaio's remarks to the crowd.
When asked about whether Arpaio's treatment of prisoners in Maricopa County was cruel when many are forced to live in tents in 138 degree heat, work in chain gangs and wear humiliating pink boxers, Myers pointed to Arpaio's remarks to the Associated Press, saying, "It's†120 degrees†in Iraq and the soldiers are living in tents and they didn't commit any crimes, so shut your mouths."
The event was billed as a way for locals to learn Arpaio's "successful strategies" and Myers said that those who run local prisons could learn from Arpaio. Attendees were able to buy a pair of the trademark pink shorts with Arpaio's signature on them.
No prominent Mountain View community members were seen entering the event.