Phoenix Police Fire Tear Gas at Anti-Trump Protesters

About six members of an anti-Trump group, Redneck Revolt, arrived with guns. John Brown, who wore military fatigues and carried an AK-47, said he was there to protect anti-Trump protesters
Three people were arrested in skirmishes between anti-Trump protesters and police.
Three people were arrested in skirmishes between anti-Trump protesters and police.

Police have fired tear gas and stun grenades at crowds of protesters in Phoenix, Arizona, as they demonstrated against US President Donald Trump, who held a campaign-style rally nearby for supporters.

A haze enveloped the night sky on Tuesday as protesters and police clashed outside the downtown Phoenix Convention Center, where Trump had just wrapped up his speech, news outlets reported.

People fled coughing as an officer in a helicopter above bellowed through a speaker, urging protesters to leave the area.

Police claimed protesters threw rocks and bottles at shielded officers, who were armed with batons.

"They also dispersed some gas in the area," said Jonathan Howard, Phoenix police spokesman.

The officers responded with pepper spray to "disperse the crowd and stop the assaults," he said.

Three people were arrested, police chief Jeri Williams said.

However, several people on social media disputed the police account.

"I witnessed no gas being thrown at police prior to police firing upon protesters," reporter Andrew Kimmel said, writing on Twitter.

Local television station 3TV showed footage of police shooting an object at a protester who had kicked back a tear gas canister. The protester fell to the ground after being hit.

Police did not estimate how many protesters had gathered, but Arizona media said thousands turned out.

Authorities were on high alert for the gathering —the president's first political rally since deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. There, on August 12, a white supremacist mowed down anti-racist protesters who were countering a far-right rally, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring dozens.

***'Toxic Trump'

Tense scenes were described as skirmishes broke out between protesters and Trump supporters at the end of the president's campaign-style rally.

"There were some scuffles, instances of people yelling back and forth at each other. Then, as the anti-Trump group started to break up, police used tear gas to disperse the crowds and open up the streets," Al Jazeera's reporter said.

"Most of that tension has now left the streets. However, there continues to be a heavy riot police presence here."

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton had unsuccessfully called on the president to not hold the rally so soon after the trouble in Charlottesville.

A few scuffles and shouting matches were also reported earlier in the day as Trump supporters lined up to attend the rally. But those events were generally peaceful.

"Toxic Trump," read one protest sign held up to the president's supporters streaming into the Phoenix Convention Center downtown.

"Lock Him Up!" read another, a reference to earlier campaign chants by Trump and his backers about his Democratic election rival Hillary Clinton.

About six members of an anti-Trump group, Redneck Revolt, arrived with guns. John Brown, who wore military fatigues and carried an AK-47, said he was there to protect anti-Trump protesters.

Arizona allows people to carry weapons openly.

***Government Shutdown

Trump revved up supporters on Tuesday with a promise to shut down the US government if necessary to build a wall along the border with Mexico, Reuters reported.

Funding for the border wall has flagged in the US Congress as many lawmakers question whether Trump's main promise during the 2016 presidential election campaign is really necessary.

But with a budget battle looming, Trump said he would be willing to risk a politically damaging government shutdown in order to secure funding for the wall.

"If we have to close down our government, we're building that wall," Trump said. "We're going to have our wall. The American people voted for immigration control. We're going to get that wall."

He blamed the media for the widespread condemnation of his response to violence at a Charlottesville, Virginia, protest organized by white supremacists. And he shouted that he had “openly called for healing, unity and love” in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy and had simply been misrepresented in news coverage.

He read from his three responses to the racially charged violence — getting more animated with each one. He withdrew from his suit pocket the written statement he’d read the day a woman was killed by a man who’d plowed a car through counter-protesters, but he skipped over the trouble-causing part that he’d freelanced at the time — his observation that “many sides” were to blame.

That, as well as his reiteration days later that “both sides” were to blame for the violence that led to the death of Heather Heyer and two state troopers, led Democrats and many Republicans to denounce Trump for not unmistakably calling out white supremacists and other hate groups.

The president unabashedly acknowledged that his own advisers had urged him to stay on message, and that he simply could not.

He went on to skewer both of Arizona’s Republican senators, insisting that his coy refusal to mention their names showed a “very presidential” restraint. He said his aides had begged him, “Please, please Mr. President, don’t mention any names. So I won’t.” Yet he’d clearly described Sen. John McCain as the reason Congress didn’t repeal and replace the much-maligned Affordable Care Act, and he labeled Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake as “weak” on borders and crime.


Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints