An effort to bring controversial former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to Spokane unraveled Monday amid backlash from veterans and community members.
Arpaio informally announced what he thought would be his March 10 appearance in Spokane by tweeting Sunday evening. Within 24 hours the event was canceled.
The nonprofit organization Gr8ter Veterans – which had organized the engagement – announced Monday evening it was canceling the event and ending all affiliation with Arpaio.
“We have decided that Sheriff Joe does not best reflect views of our organization,” said Nick Richardson, founder of the Gr8ter Veterans organization. “We do not want to divide the veterans’ community, the local community, or any community for that matter.”
Arpaio, who is known for his tough stance on illegal immigration, was sheriff for more than 24 years before he was defeated in 2016. President Donald Trump last year pardoned Arpaio of criminal contempt after he was found guilty of disobeying a judge’s order in a racial profiling case.
Arpaio has since declared his candidacy for an open U.S. Senate seat in Arizona.
In Spokane tickets to see Arpaio had been advertised for sale for between $60 and $900; however, as of Monday evening, no tickets had been sold, Richardson said.
Richardson – an Army veteran – founded the organization in 2016 and said he is raising funds to build a recreation center for veterans.
Richardson said the organization was approached by a mutual contact about working with Arpaio, but after receiving emails and reading comments on the Gr8ter Veterans Facebook page, he decided the event isn’t the best reflection upon the organization.
“Our decision to step back was made so we can remain more apolitical,” he said.
Richardson said he is not against immigration as a whole. But by holding the event, he said, people could misjudge the organization.
“I do not want to divide this nation. I was taught in the Army there’s only one color that matters and that’s camouflage,” he said. “We shouldn’t judge each other on political party affiliation and I don’t feel like this event would unite this community or the country.”