As Donald Trump faced widespread criticism for his comments blaming “both sides” for the weekend tumult and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, the president’s campaign announced that he would be holding a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday, ABC News reported.
The event, announced on Wednesday, will take place at the Phoenix Convention Center.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said in a statement that he was “disappointed” that the president had decided to hold the rally so soon after the tragic events at the white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville that left three people dead.
“I am disappointed that President Trump has chosen to hold a campaign rally as our nation is still healing from the tragic events in Charlottesville,” Stanton said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “It is my hope that more sound judgment prevails and that he delays his visit.”
Stanton also spoke out against the president’s recent comments to Fox News that he may pardon former metro Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio, 85, who last month was convicted in federal court for disobeying a judge’s order to stop traffic patrols that targeted immigrants, ABC News reported. Arpaio is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 5, though attorneys doubt that he will be incarcerated because of his age.
“If President Trump is coming to Phoenix to announce a pardon for former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, then it will be clear that his true intent is to enflame emotions and further divide our nation,” Stanton also said in his statement.
Trump’s planned appearance in Phoenix is shaping up to be a showdown with more than just the city’s Democrat mayor. On Thursday, the president took after the state’s U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican who was a vocal critic of Trump during the 2016 election.
“Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He’s toxic!” Trump tweeted Thursday morning.
That prompted Arizona’s senior senator, Republican John McCain to come out on Flake’s side, calling him a “principled legislator” in a tweet.
Trump has come under fire for refusing to unequivocally lay blame for last weekend’s deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, with the neo-Nazis who marched through that college town wielding torches and weapons while shouting racist taunts.
“There are two sides to a story,” Trump said on Tuesday.
“There were a lot of bad people in the other group too,” he said in reference to the counter-protesters. He also said there were “very fine people” on both sides of the protest.
“Not all of those people were neo-Nazis. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch,” he said. “You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent.”
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After the rally turned violent, Heather Heyer, 32, was killed and at least 19 others were injured when a driver rammed his car into a group of counter-protesters, according to The New York Times. Authorities said two state troopers were also killed in a helicopter crash as they were responding to the rally.
At least 26 people were taken to a local hospital from the rally and counter-protests, the Northwest Herald reported.