‘I was there when the first shots were fired’: Trump rally in Phoenix ends in violence
The Phoenix Police used tear gas to disperse crowds
With a flash and a boom, crowds were sent fleeing through downtown Phoenix following a Trump rally.
Some report the choking smoke, eerily illuminated by street lights, came out of nowhere and was a part of an overreaction by police. Others recall protesters crossing the line and turning a peaceful demonstration of democracy into acts of crime.
The Phoenix Police used tear gas to disperse crowds numbering in the thousands after tensions heightened between protesters and Trump supporters outside the Phoenix Convention Center.
Lauren Tracey, 19, told The Tab that she was there to fight for human rights and spread a positive message against those she believes are wronged.
“By going to the rally, I just wanted to accomplish getting the message out there to just a few people,” she said.
“If even one person goes home and ruminates on our positive messages or see the protest and thinks twice on what’s going on within our country and how it affects our citizens, then that’s a step in the right direction,” she said on what made her decide to protest.
Although the night escalated quickly, Tracey is optimistic about the protest. “I thought the protest was extremely well done," said Tracey. "It was organized and peaceful and there were so many people fighting for our fellow humans.”
Tracey was at the rally as Phoenix Police tear gassed the crowd and forced the attendees to disperse. She says that the police took action despite there being no noticeable violence happening.
“The militarization of this police state is what caused an uproar, the ones who are dressed for a riot are the cops,” she said.
Kyle Preston, 29, a Trump opponent, also claims that police were the ones to instigate the riot narrative surrounding the protest.
Kyle was in attendance as a supporter of Puente Human Rights Movement and as a member of the M.E.Ch.A, a national student organization. He told The Tab that he was in Downtown Phoenix from 2:30pm until the tear gas forced him to leave.
“I was in front, on the barricades the entire time, both chanting and handing police officers water bottles the entire afternoon,” Preston tells The Tab. “The protest was quite peaceful the entire time, albeit very loud.”
According to Preston, however, the protest did not stay that way due to officers shooting at the crowd.
“I was there when the first shots were fired on protestors — on Monroe between 3rd and 2nd Street," Kyle explained. “Officers began shooting protestors, behind barricades."
“You can hear the shots faintly as they aren’t as loud as guns. Furious protestors started shouting ‘Shame’ and ‘Why are you firing’ which can be heard in the video,” Kyle said.
According to Kyle, protestors only become reactionary after Police continued to fire into the crowd and that the reports of people throwing objects was false.
Jeri L. Williams, the chief of the Phoenix Police Department, says officers were attacked with bottles, rocks, and tear gas.
Williams said in a news conference late Tuesday night that two officers were being treated at the hospital for heat exhaustion. Chief Williams disputed claims that the officers were overly aggressive, saying that they only responded with tear gas after they were assaulted.
Mayor Greg Stanton said that police attempted to allow people to protest peacefully, and there had been no serious injuries, but officials will examine the whether the approach the police took was necessary.
Arizona State University sent out multiple advisories to its students detailing alternative routes and safety precautions as well as multiple Downtown businesses closing for the day.
The protest ended with a total of four arrests.