TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A big name in the Trump Administration makes his way to Tucson. With his visit, comes a polarizing discussion.
Steve Bannon will be the keynote speaker at the Brian Terry Foundation Courage Awards and Benefit Dinner on Saturday, Nov. 18 at the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort and Spa.
Once the White House Chief Strategist serving President Donald Trump, Bannon's time there is book-ended by stints at Breitbart News. It's part of the reason the foundation chose Bannon to speak Saturday night and honor him.
"You know what the family went through. You know that the government put weapons in the hands of the men that killed Brian Terry. I would imagine he's very well-versed with who Brian Terry is, and wanted to come speak to the foundation that now bears his name," said Robert Heyer, chairman of the Brian Terry Foundation and Terry's cousin.
Terry, a Border Patrol agent, was shot and killed in the line of duty by armed robbers near Rio Rico in 2010.
His death and subsequent investigation led to the discovery of the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal.
Agents reportedly lost track of more than 1,000 firearms during the operation. Two of those firearms were found at the scene where Terry was shot to death.
The foundation applauded Bannon and Breitbart News for not letting the story fade.
"Also being honored with Brian Terry Courage Awards are Tucson philanthropist and American patriot Norma Zimdahl and ATF Agent John Dodson who blew the whistle on government officials while also revealing the botched gun-running scandal," according to the foundation's website.
But some in Tucson could not understand why the foundation would bring in a lightning rod for controversy.
"It's an insult to Tucson," said Edward Cott, an organizer for LUPE Tucson.
Cott and other protesters from groups like Freedom Road Socialist got together Thursday evening, Nov. 16, to make up signs that they plan to display at the entrance to the resort on Saturday, around 3:30 p.m. According to a news release, they are planning a "rally and assembly to protest the racist, misogynist and bigot Bannon."
"He's an apologist for hate," Cott told Tucson News Now. "They want to hide under the First Amendment. They want to hide under some false Nationalism and Patriotism. But the truth is that they are policies of hate, exclusion, oppression, of women, of immigrants, of people of color, black people in this country, of Native Americans. He represents backwards ideas and we want to stand up against them."
Heyer told Tucson News Now over the phone that Bannon is not being paid to appear.
"We reached out to Steve Bannon and asked him to come to the foundation to speak on border security. We're a non-political organization. We've honored and had speakers from a very bipartisan group. Ron Barber spoke at the dinner in years past. We've honored Gabrielle Giffords for her courage and fight throughout her life," he said.
Reacting to Heyer's comment, Cott said he can't separate the man from his policies.
"He was just part of the administration. So how is this not political?" Cott said. "It should not be disconnected. It cannot be disconnected. The policies (Bannon) represented in Washington when he was in the President's administration, is what he represents."
Cott said he will be there, Saturday at the resort's entrance, to lead a peaceful protest.
Heyer hopes for the same.
"We're Americans. We value the ability for free speech and to be able to put your opinion out there. All we're asking is that you allow us to conduct our courage awards and our event, without coming inside to protest," he said. "We've got a lot of threats of protesters saying they're going to disrupt the dinner. I think it's very disrespectful to the family of the slain border patrol agent, and the foundation that bears his name, to do so."
Heyer said tickets are still available, but can only be purchased online. Ticket sales close Friday. You can buy them here.