ANDERSON, S.C. (WSPA) — State leaders celebrated local law enforcement Monday night at Rep. Jeff Duncan’s annual Faith and Freedom BBQ.
It marks the sixth year that Duncan has held the event.
Officers were invited to eat and thanked for their service.
The special guest speaker was Arizona’s controversial sheriff, Joe Arpaio, known by some as the “toughest sheriff in America.”
Duncan says he invited Arpaio because of his dedicated service and similar ideas to combat illegal immigration.
“This guy has served DEA all over the world, South America, Middle East and ended up a DEA agent at the office in Arizona. He then left his career and retired and became sheriff and has been, I think, one of the longest serving sheriffs in the country,” Duncan said.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson and Anderson County Sheriff John Skipper were just some of the leaders in attendance.
Before the Faith and Freedom BBQ kicked off, protesters carrying “No to Sheriff Joe” signs gathered outside the Anderson Civic Center.
The group says Arpaio was not an appropriate candidate for an event celebrating law enforcement.
Duncan thanked the protesters for attending and briefly spoke with them about why they didn’t want Arpaio there.
The group says his stance on securing the border is dividing the country and don’t believe he was setting a good example for local officers.
“I do think that it plays into the fears that we have of migrants in our country and in our community and it just seems very unhealthy to me,” Keith Ray said.
Protesters reminded Duncan that a federal judge is investigating Arpaio for contempt of court in ignoring court orders on a racial profiling case.
Congressman Duncan told the group that the sheriff is innocent until proven guilty.