PHOENIX, Arizona -- A tire chain faces a backlash for posting signs at several of its stores supporting the re-election of a controversial Arizona sheriff who was found by a federal judge to have engaged in racial profiling of Latinos amid his harsh immigration enforcement tactics.
On Thursday, several Latino advocacy groups held a press conference outside a Discount Tire store in south Phoenix to launch a boycott. The groups also organized a protest on Saturday outside one of the stores in west Phoenix, and dozens of people attended the protest.
Latino leaders say the Discount Tire chain should have known that displaying “Re-Elect Sheriff Joe Arpaio” signs in some of its store windows wouldn’t sit well with Latino customers, who for years have had a contentious relationship with the Maricopa County Sheriff.
Daniel Ortega, a Phoenix attorney who has been shopping at Discount Tire for the last two decades and considers himself a “loyal customer,” said he was outraged when he learned about the signs. He said he viewed the signs as a “slap in the face” to Latino costumers.
“The owners of Discount Tire have the right to support who they want, but to display their support understanding what Sheriff Arpaio has done to our community is totally insensitive and inconsiderate,” Ortega told NBC Latino.
“How can you ignore what Sheriff Joe Arpaio has done to our community and still expect us to do business there,” he added.
A federal judge recently found Arpaio in civil contempt of court for disobeying orders to stop racially profiling Latinos during traffic stops and immigration enforcement patrols. The sheriff is running for re-election, and polls show he's trailing his Democratic opponent Paul Ponzone by a slight margin.
Last week, Latino customers took to social media to post photos of the signs they saw in store windows, though it’s unclear how many Discount Tire stores put up the signs.
Some wrote that they would no longer shop there and encouraged others to follow suit, while others defended the company's right to put the signs.
Discount Tire did not respond to a request for comment.
Ortega, a former chair of the National Council of La Raza’s board of directors, said he hopes the backlash caused by the Arpaio signs “sends a message to other businesses where Latinos spend their dollars about how to deal with their politics in the future.”
“It should be a public relations nightmare to any business where Latinos buy to make a public display of their support for Sheriff Joe Arpaio,” he said.