Trump's Mesa Visit: Airport to Designate Special Zones for Demonstrators

Phoenix-Mesa Gateway airport officials are hoping for a well-planned rally when President Trump comes to town on Friday, October 19.

The scene at the rally is likely to be subdued compared to the chaos that erupted when Trump visited downtown Phoenix in August 2017.

Trump will rally his supporters at the aerial services company International Air Response at 7 p.m. to support Republicans like Senate candidate Martha McSally in the midterm elections.

The event will be Trump's 10th rally in Arizona and his second visit to this airport. Then-candidate Trump previously rallied there while on the campaign trail in 2015, deplaning from the jet emblazoned with his personal brand.

Ryan Smith, a spokesperson for Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, said that designated areas will be established for demonstrators on the road outside of the hangar where Trump will speak. Pro- and anti-Trump protesters will be separated on different sides of the adjacent roads East Velocity Way and Downwind Circle, he said.

"On the left side, we’ll likely have one set of protesters – that’s where they had them at the previous event – and there will be an opposing side on the either side of the street," Smith said. "That’s likely what will happen."

Trump supporters attending the rally will be ushered inside the hangar. At his 2015 airport appearance, around 3,000 supporters showed up to watch. Smith said that as of right now, the airport has no indication of the number of protesters who might show up.

"We’re going to plan for the best," Smith said.

There will almost certainly be fewer demonstrators than the thousands of people who crowded downtown Phoenix in August 2017.

For one thing, Mesa's airport is far from population centers, located more than 30 miles east of downtown Phoenix. Additionally, last year's Phoenix rally occurred at the height of the furor over Trump's response to the white supremacist Charlottesville rally. Outrage only increased after Trump suggested he might pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. (The pardon came a few days later.)

Phoenix police officers in riot gear deployed tear gas, pepper balls, and stun grenades to clear out demonstrators toward the end of the rally.

The actions of Phoenix police that night have been scrutinized in an internal investigation and are now the subject of a class-action lawsuit filed last month by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona. The organization argues that demonstrators' constitutional rights were violated.

According to Smith, the Mesa Police Department will coordinate security during the rally at the airport. Mesa police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Smith said, "There will be an effort to ensure that First Amendment rights are protected and that there is an area for all sides to express their First Amendment rights."

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