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2 arrested in protest at Sen. Flake's office, 1 charged with threats

Two men were arrested at Sen. Jeff Flake's office in Tucson on Thursday, with one charged with making threats and the other with trespassing during a protest against the Republican health care law making its way through the Senate.

Mark Prichard, 59, was arrested for stepping onto the North Oracle Road property where the Republican senator's office is located after he was warned by Pima County Sheriff's Department deputies that Flake's staff did not want him on the grounds, authorities said.

Staffers had locked the doors to the office and called law enforcement after Prichard allegedly made a comment that could reference the shooting attack on U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise last month just outside Washington, D.C. Flake was present when the House majority whip and four others were wounded by a gunman who opened fire at a baseball practice.

In addition to third-degree criminal trespassing, Prichard was also charged with threats and intimidation, a class 1 misdemeanor, after a review of his statements, said a Sheriff's Department spokesman.

"You know how liberals are going to solve the Republican problem? ... They are going to get better aim.  That last guy tried, but he needed better aim.  We will get better aim," Prichard allegedly said, according to Jason Samuels, a spokesman for Flake.

When deputies responded to the call by Flake's staff, Prichard was standing on an easement off the property. He was informed that "he was not allowed back on the property," but "made it a point to step back onto the property after being told not to do so and was immediately arrested," said Deputy Cody Gress.

After Prichard was arrested, Flake's staff "was still not allowing protestors into the office at this point, when a staffer opened the door to pass out informational packets which the protestors could submit to the office with their concerns. When the staffer opened the door to hand these out, a protestor tried to force his way into the office and passed the staffer. He was immediately arrested," Gress said.

The second man, 70-year-old Patrick Diehl, was also arrested for third-degree trespassing, and both were taken to the Pima County jail, Gress said.

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"The remaining protestors were allowed to be on the property five at a time from that point forward, and the remaining protest time was peaceful," he said.

Following his trespassing arrest, "upon further review of the evidence and statements made by Mark Prichard to the staff at Sen Flake's office," he was also charged with making threats, Gress said.

Five people were reportedly arrested for trespassing during a related protest at Flake's Phoenix office on Thursday.

In May, a Tucson man was arrested and charged in federal court with threatening to "assault and murder a United States official" after a series of phone calls to the office of U.S. Rep. Martha McSally. Steve Martan, 58, called McSally's office three times and made threats, court documents allege, including "Can't wait to fucking pull the trigger bitch."

Thursday's protest — billed as a sit-in in a news release from activists earlier this week — was announced as involving a number of groups opposed to "TrumpCare," including Democracy Spring, Democratic Socialists of America, The People's Consortium, Progressive Democrats of America, ResistHere.org, Ultraviolet, and Working Families Party.

Another group of political activists, Indivisible Southern Arizona, plans an "open-mic" session, during which protesters will share their health-care stories, on Saturday at 8 a.m. at Flake's office, 6840 N. Oracle Rd.

"The actions today represent the strategy of just one group in the larger effort to save healthcare protections for Americans," said Kristen Randall, one of the organizers of the local Indivisible chapter.

That group "employs a different strategy, one where we feel that two-way dialogue, whenever possible, between constituent and representative is imperative. We condemn violent talk and believe that success can be won through peaceful and constructive means," she said.

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Prichard, left, and Diehl.