YORKVILLE, Ill. (CBS) — Protests are expected at the Kendall County Republican picnic Saturday, as the man known as “America’s toughest sheriff” is expected to attend.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner reports, Joe Arpaio, 79, was elected sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., in 1996. He has since become known, and unpopular in many circles, for his hostility toward illegal immigration and illegal immigrants and unconventional policing.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner reports
Inmates in the Maricopa County Jail are required to wear pink underwear, work on chain gangs and sleep in giant canvas tents in the scorching Arizona heat.
Those shorts will be for sale at $15 a pop during Saturday’s Kendall County Republican Family Picnic at the at the Kendall County Fairgrounds in Yorkville.
Protesters, however, would like to make sure they stay in Arpaio’s possession.
“Instead of inviting a speaker that unifies and motivates, they have chosen a speaker that is notable mainly for garnering a large amount of negative headlines,” said Chrisi Vineyard, president of the Kendall County Democratic Women.
Vineyard and other local union, immigration and religious leaders have called for a boycott of the event.
“This will instead attract individuals that are motivated by radicalism and divisive beliefs, rather than those who have a desire to participate in a healthy discussion about how to create a better future for all residents of our county, our state, and our nation,” she said.
Protesters who are angry with the Kendall County Republicans’ invitation to Arpaio will be gathering at the fairgrounds from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. to make their voices heard. Vineyard said protesters should park in the fairgrounds parking lot near East Highpoint Road and set up around the entrance.
One person who is excited about Arpaio’s visit is county Coroner Ken Toftoy, chairman of the Kendall County Republican Central Committee.
Toftoy has lauded Arpaio’s unconventional effort to ward off crime.
“I like the guy. I follow him,” Toftoy said in a earlier interview with The Beacon-News. “ … I just think in the United States, we’re too nice to these people. They screwed up and broke the law.”
Toftoy said he heard from a few precinct GOP committeemen who believed Arpaio’s visit was not a good idea. Toftoy said he respected that opinion — and he expected to draw protesters at the event.
Arpaio can come off as tough, Toftoy said, but he’s a “straight-up guy” when you get to know him.
“He doesn’t pick on anybody. He’s just enforcing the law,” Toftoy said. “Sheriff Joe is the type of person who welcomes people to come to America, just come the right way.”
The dinner will be from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Kendall Fairgrounds, 10826 Route 71, York¬ville. Tickets to the event are $20 a person and $50 for a family.
For a $100 donation, participants can get their picture taken with Arpaio. The committee will also sell autographed pink shorts for $15.
The Aurora Beacon-News contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.