Steve Bannon and other Trump acolytes gathered in a conference room in a gated community in Sahuarita on Friday evening to speak to members of the Quail Creek Republican Club and their guests about their plan to use private funds to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico.
The “town hall” aimed to discuss a plan to raise $100 million over the course of the year to build up to 30 miles of border fence along privately owned land that sits along the border.
“We will be building this wall before the government can get funding,” Brian Kolfage, founder of the group We Build the Wall Inc., which formed out of a GoFundMe created by the veteran and triple amputee. The GoFundMe created by Kolfage raised over $20 million and is tied up in lawsuits over how the money will be used. Some of that money has gone to this new initiative.
The group consisted of Bannon, conservative Breitbart blogger Brandon Darby, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, former Colorado representative Tom Tancredo and two parents whose children were killed by undocumented immigrants.
Former Sheriff David Clarke and Blackwater founder Erik Prince are also attached to the project, but were not in attendance Friday.
The panel took turns talking about immigration and taking questions from the audience of about 150 people. Many wore red “Make America Great Again” hats or donned shirts with slogans like “Make liberals cry again.”
“We have the OGs (original gangsters) of the MAGA movement,” Bannon quipped about the panel.
The roughly two-hour talk consisted of many of the GOPs talking points on immigration since 2016, and no major details were given on how Kolfage and the group aimed to build the wall with private funds.
Small details were given, such as many of the areas they plan to build are on private land and that committees will be created to discuss issues of construction and immigration law.
When an attendee asked Kolfage what legal obstacles the project might face he brushed it off with a joke.
“Probably some butterfly or a lizard,” Kolfage said, referencing lawsuits working their way through federal courts about endangered species that could be harmed by border wall construction.
Even Bannon attempted to get Kolfage to dispel misconceptions by asking him to tell the audience how this is not a “stunt.” Kolfage ended up talking about how he was doing this for “the people” and offered no further details.
The event was also not without its controversy.
Protesters gathered outside the community before the event with signs such as “no wall” and “no hate.”
“I don’t like the idea of the wall,” long time Southern Arizona resident Don Fordney told the Arizona Mirror. “They’re good neighbors.”
As Fordney was speaking with the Mirror, a different set of protesters arrived.
Michael Lewis Arthur of the group Veterans On Patrol was loudly debating with one of the protestors while livestreaming “evidence” he had found of child smuggling in Tucson.
Arthur’s group has been involved in a QAnon-style conspiracy in Tucson for about a year, claiming an abandoned camp they discovered belonged to child sex traffickers associated with Hillary Clinton. The alleged sex camp has been proven to have belonged to a group of homeless LGBTQ people.
Arthur and others who are pro-Trump’s wall were also frustrated by the fact that they believed the event was open to the public. In reality, the event was invite-only, and many were frustrated as they were turned away at the guard gate for the Quail Creek community.
“I’m a huge fan though!” one person could be heard pleading with a security guard before promptly making a U-turn.
Protesters who lived in the community also were present outside of the community center where the event took place.
But outside was not the only place they appeared.
At one point during the event, a man was given the microphone to ask the panel a question.
“One of the great things about this country is we can all disagree, right Mr. Bannon?” The man said before attempting to walk towards the stage to give Bannon a “gift.”
Police intervened and audience members yelled loudly at the man who called the group “racists” and “criminals” before being escorted out. It’s unclear what he intended to give to Bannon.
The event also allowed for some in the audience to espouse conspiratorial opinions and false statistics.
When the panel was discussing how the cartels have used money to corrupt certain officials in Mexico, one audience member shouted “like Grijalva!” which was met with applause not only from the crowd but from of the panel members. Most notably, former Colorado Republican Representative Tom Tancredo who clapped and gave a thumbs up to the man in the audience.
No one on the panel refuted the claim, though there is no evidence U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Tucson Democrat, as any ties to Mexican drug cartels.
Additionally, a woman asking a question to the panel said that 63,000 U.S. citizens have been killed by undocumented immigrants, a statistic that has been proven multiple times to be completely inaccurate.
On top of protests, conspiracy theories and more, Bannon gave his insights on what Trump might do to get his border wall.
Bannon stated he believed Trump will use an executive order or declare a national emergency to get the wall built. Kobach, a longtime critic of illegal immigration and proponent of baseless voter-fraud claims, echoed those sentiments and said he thinks Trump should use “Article 2” of the U.S. Constitution, but did not elaborate on what that meant. Article 2 establishes all the powers of the executive branch.
The group plans to hold more town halls in the coming months and Bannon alluded to more happening in Arizona, but no details were given.