An Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate denied asking members of an armed militia group to act as his security detail during a protest against Central American immigrants, Talking Points Memo reported.
“I neither requested them in any way, shape or form,” former state congressman Frank Riggs told TPM. “I didn’t arrange for them to be there nor did I ask for their help or services.”
Riggs did acknowledge the presence of the group, which reportedly calls itself the Arizona State Militia, and that members were guarding him, but said they behaved appropriately during the protest and that he respected their right to be there.
“I didn’t bring anybody along,” he was quoted as saying. “You know, I’m a big boy and perfectly capable of protecting myself.”
KTVK-TV reported on Tuesday that Riggs, along with the militia members, attended a demonstration opposing the prospective placement of about 40 immigrant children at a facility near Oracle, Arizona.
“The idea that these minors would be placed in Arizona, where they, presumably, would have to be quarantined for public health reasons, I think, is a huge challenge, Riggs said at the time, using a conservative talking point that has been debunked by medical professionals.
The anti-immigrant protest was instigated by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who revealed the route transport vehicles for the immigrants would be taking to the facility.
At one point, Tea Party congressional candidate Adam Kwansman and other demonstrators reportedly mistook a bus full of children coming a local YMCA branch for an immigrant transport and blocked the vehicle.
The Associated Press reported that anti-immigrant protesters waved signs saying, “Go home non-Yankees” and “Return to sender” during the gathering, and that a group of mariachi musicians who were part of a counter-protest were shoved. But Riggs told TPM that there were no physical altercations between members of the two protests, describing the event as a “mostly polite and respectful exchange of views.”
The militia, which has not issued a statement on Tuesday’s protest, refers to itself as the “praetorian guard” on its Facebook page, adopting the name of the bodyguard group employed by Roman emperors until it was disbanded by Emperor Constantine I in 312.
Watch KTVK’s report on the protest, as aired on Tuesday, below.