Thousands protest US sheriff's immigration efforts

Thousands protest US sheriff's immigration efforts

Protesters march past Phoenix police officers in riot gear during a march against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his immigration efforts on Saturday in Phoenix. AP

Organisers say the protest was meant to show officials in Washington that Arpaio shouldn't handle immigration enforcement and that Congress and the Obama administration need to come up with a way for immigrant workers to come to the country legally.

The 5 kilometre walk yesterday started in a west Phoenix park and ended by afternoon at the Durango Jail Complex, a collection of five jails, where officials played music, including a record by singer Linda Ronstadt, to drown out noise made by protesters. Ronstadt took part in yesterday's protest.

Protesters chanted "Joe must go" as they approached the jail complex. One person carried a sign that said "We are human" and bore a picture of a lawman with a wolf's face. A family of five wore T-shirts saying "Who would Jesus deport?"

For his part, Arpaio said he wasn't bothered by the protesters and that they should be directing their frustrations at Congress because it has the power to change America's immigration laws.

"They are zeroing in on the wrong guy," Arpaio said. "They ought to be zeroing in on the president."

The demonstration was peaceful until police say protesters near the end of the procession started throwing water bottles at officers.

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