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"Trump pardoning Arpaio would be an official presidential endorsement of racism," says the ACLU.
The people of Phoenix, Arizona are mobilizing ahead of President Donald Trump's visit to the city on Tuesday -- a week after he defended white supremacists -- amid speculation over whether he will announce at the rally a presidential pardon for Joe Arpaio, the notorious former sheriff of Maricopa County.
Thousands are expected to show up to protest the president's visit, with a number of events planned, including the Puente-organized "White Supremacy Will Not Be Pardoned" evening rally. The local human rights group said on its Facebook page: "we want to send a very clear message that we will not pardon white supremacy the way [Trump] has done so with #Charlottesville and now with Joe #Arpaio."
Trump told Fox News last week that he is "seriously considering a pardon" for 85-year-old Arpaio, who was convicted last month by a federal judge of criminal contempt for violating a 2011 court order requiring him to stop racially profiling Latinos with traffic stops and detentions.
Among the other acts of his reign as sheriff that garnered widespread criticism from civil rights advocates was establishing the Tent City jail, where, as the Washington Post explained,
"'America's toughest sheriff' forced his inmates to wear pink underwear, shower with pink towels, and sleep on pink sheets. Their meals were meatless and their jumpsuits striped in wide black and white. The only barrier between their bodies and the scorching summer sun was the weathered green canvas of surplus Korean War military tents."
Trump, however, declared Sunday that Arpaio is "a great American patriot" who "has done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration."
But according to the ACLU, if Trump pardons Arpaio it would be "an official presidential endorsement of racism."
In a petition that describes Arpaio "a criminal," the ACLU is urging supporters to call on the White House reject the possibility of a pardon.
"As Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, Arpaio and his deputies systematically terrorized communities of color with unlawful detentions," the petition reads. It continues:
"Federal prosecutors secured a criminal contempt conviction against Arpaio after it was proven his office profiled and illegally detained Latinos, violating their constitutional rights.
"A pardon by Trump would absolve Arpaio's flagrant violation of federal court orders and his racism and bigotry."
A group of Arizona Democrats -- Reps. Ruben Gallego, Raul Grijalva, and Tom O'Hallera -- wrote to Trump to warn that a pardon would send a "clear message that your allies are immune from prosecution."