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Fear of protests changes venue for Arpaio event in Las Vegas

Updated September 11, 2017 - 9:40 pm

A conservative group chose to change the site of a dinner honoring Joe Arpaio, the controversial former sheriff fresh off a pardon from President Donald Trump, after Las Vegas police raised “possible concerns” about the event.

The sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona, for 24 years, Arpaio was convicted of contempt in July for defying a court order instructing his department to stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants.

Arpaio, pardoned last month by Trump, was set to receive the Conservative Leadership Conference’s Courage Under Fire Award at the group’s dinner Saturday night at the Tropicana.

But police worried Arpaio’s appearance could be the spark to ignite violent protests, according to Chuck Muth, the event’s host and president of the conservative group Citizen Outreach.

Muth would not say where the event will be or whether the former sheriff will attend.

“I’m not going to tell them (protesters) Arpaio’s going to be there or not,” Muth said.

A protest in front of the Tropicana was organized through Facebook and planned for 5:30 p.m. Saturday, but it appears to lack the organizational efforts that have been part of past protests in Las Vegas.

Alicia Contreras, director of the Nevada chapter of the immigrant advocacy group Mi Familia Vota, said the organization is focusing on renewing the statuses for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and is not planning anything formal for Arpaio’s visit.

“We aren’t using our energy there,” Contreras said.

Muth said the police department raised concerns with the timing of Arpaio’s appearance and how it coincided with three other events:

■ A boxing match between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, a popular Mexican boxer, and Gennady Golovkin will be happening across the street at the T-Mobile Arena about the same time as the awards dinner.

■ The Trump administration’s decision last week to end DACA.

■ Mexican Independence Day, which is Saturday.

“Police felt that all of that mixed together held the potential for a violent incident. And I just want to avoid that,” Muth said.

Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Larry Hadfield confirmed that the department spoke to the resort regarding the potential safety risks, but noted that the decision to move the event would have come down to the organizers and the venue, not police.

“We spoke with the Tropicana regarding the events going on that weekend and voiced some possible concerns,” Hadfield said.

Hadfield added it is typical for the department to talk to resorts about public safety concerns when major events occur.

Muth wrote in his blog over the weekend that the event could be in jeopardy if he couldn’t find a new venue for the dinner. Muth said on Monday that he has secured a new site, but he has no plans to reveal the location.

“We’re not telling anyone where that is,” Muth said.

This story has been corrected to reflect that Las Vegas police did not ask for the event to be moved.

Contact Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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