Here’s a video from our reporter Chris Vena documenting the protest.
Shortly after the events of Charlottesville’s demonstration America’s most unpopular president decided to hold a rally in Phoenix in one of the few states where he still holds a majority of voter support. This only a few days after his best answer to the Neo-Nazi’s chanting “Jews Will Not Replace”, and overall spreading a message of hate and genocide was to question the violence of “both sides”. It was cemented once again that our current president will not condemn the alt-right and Nazis who are becoming more dangerous.
After the announcement was made there were rumors that this would be when he would announce his pardoning of Joe Arpaio one of the most corrupt former officials in America. Immediately protests were organized and counter protests and plans were made. Some people registered for tickets online with the intention of not showing up so he’d have smaller crowds, large amounts of people planned to protest peacefully outside of the convention center to have their voices heard. Trump supporters and members of the Neo Nazi’s “Alt-Right” like this man (link to that guy who said he was gonna run over protestors) were joking of their plans to run over protestors in the streets. One truck even tried to do this but thankfully no one was hurt. The protest ran almost all day Tuesday without incident until around 8:30 something led to the police releasing tear gas into the crowd. Despite multiple video footage and photos there’s yet to be any proof of incitement from the protestors, and almost all of the accounts that we gathered from protestors who were there at the barricade or nearby say there was no warning to leave until after the gas and pellets started flying.
In our due diligence to make sure that we tell the story as accurately as possible we requested interviews from the people who were there. Our writers gathered as much photos and videos and first hand accounts of Tuesday night’s events as possible and you can read them all as follows.
I spoke with Scott M. first and he told me his take on Tuesday night’s events;
It was peaceful from about 6 p.m. until 8:45 p.m. I walked around the entire Convention Center in an attempt to take in as much information as I could about both sides, supporters and protesters.
I ended up on the North side of the convention center on Van Buren and 2nd Street right outside of the Herberger Theater when tear gas and pepper bullets were starting to be deployed.
From my observation certain protesters came prepared with small explosives and smoke bombs to throw at the police if the police got violent. When the police did get violent, protesters began to shower police with anything they could find and throw. This led to police needing to use more tear gas and rubber bullets and a front line mentality to create a wall of officers
Regarding people, I felt a large growing tension throughout the night. As supporters started to get turned away due to seating capacity, is when arguments began to really flare up. The turned away trump supporters found protesters to agitate and the protesters never backed down from an opportunity to call a trump supporter racist or Nazi.
Meanwhile, healthy discussion were taking place all over. It is sometimes hard to decipher which ones are healthy and fair and open dialogue due to atmosphere but it was rewarding to listen to some level headed points from both sides.. Separate from the screaming and yelling matches. I also got very emotional in the early evening. Just seeing the divide be physicalized. The divide is real and I believe it is stoked by people much higher up.
Was that around 6?
I was about 10 feet away from an extremely large explosion that I have on camera.
So there were protestors with explosives? Or were they supporters?
The only explosives I saw were that of protestors and police
Police threw flash bang grenades (stun grenades) and protestors had small fireworks that they threw at police AFTER police gassed everybody. Antifa had a very known presence
So the police started it? Or was it antifa?
Antifa members were agitating the riot police line which is most likely what caused the first gassing. But nothing was thrown at police first. Just words and anger
Is there anything else you feel should be known about what happened or you want to say about it?
There were probably 20 trump supporters with more weapons than the police They look like mercenaries meant for intimidation
Wow. No wonder tensions were high.
Assault rifles, automatic weapons, vests, night sticks, utility belt
They looked battle ready
It was like Facebook came to life
With everyone arguing and screaming at each other and no real change happening.
Yeah. There’s a lot of division right now.
Yeah there is. Made me sick. Still coughing from the gas.
Here are more statements from people who were there that night.
“I arrived with my girlfriend, two employees, and some friends in a band that live in Phoenix. We walked towards the convention center around 7:20, and were peacefully walking around with signage and taking everything in. No real opposing protest could be seen or heard. Being unfamiliar with PHX, I wanted to see the actual convention center and get a grasp of what was going on “at the front lines.” PHX police everywhere, in full riot gear. As 8:30 rolled around more police in riot gear started creating a thick line in front of the bridge between the two buildings of the center. You could see people crossing the bridge, as the spectacle inside was over.
Everyone on either side of me was peaceful and holding signs, distributing water bottles, picking up trash, trying to figure out what was happening. We all jumped as we heard a sound in the park right next to us, and some protesters jumped back. More sounds. More people backing up. Over the course of several minutes a large amount of police had moved into and forcibly cleared the public park, and ripped a very large anti-45 banner down. At that point tear gas, flash grenades and salt pellets had been used in the park. We were all still standing along the barricade, trying to hold our signs and shouting “peaceful protest” with hands up, many holding peace signs. The barricade started to fall forwards towards the police, and we all fought to pull it back up with success. We knew we didn’t want that (any excuse for police agitation).
They were at the ready, masks on, pepper spray out and cocked, some hands on side arms. And then it happened. Pop pop pop, multiple times. They were shooting canisters at us, of smoke grenades and salt pellets. There were children and elderly people, as well as several persons in wheelchairs in my same area. We all started to get back. And then it happened. At least 40 canisters of tear gas were released. It filled the entire block within seconds. Police engaging towards us, shooting people in the back as they were on the ground and scrambling away. From my vantage point, nothing in that area was thrown to initiate, no harsh works, we were not asked to leave. Everyone scrambled. We hid under a building overhang to clear our eyes. Couldn’t see anything. Then the helicopter started: “You must vacate the area or you will be detained.” But none of us could see. We didn’t know where we were, where to go, but saw the police headed for us. No warning to leave, only tear gassed to almost the point of nausea.
A kind stranger grabbed us and helped us through a gate he had opened. We went a block over and tried to re-center and find our missing friends. We ran across the street and got more exposure to the gas, but another concealed stranger helped by pouring a solution in our eyes which was much appreciated. We were able to move forward and find a clear path to our friends a couple blocks over. Little did we know we could be walking tandem with 45 supporters leaving the rally. One knocked a coffee out of a man’s hand in front of us, saying “fuck you faggot.” The aggressor had ss bolts tattooed on his neck, and was taken away by his crew.
As we continued to walk back towards the convention center to find our friends, exiting 45 supporters from the rally were honking their car horns, revving their engines and flashing headlights while people walked very nervously on the sidewalk. At this time I saw a mother explaining to her six year old son that they had been gassed, and that it would go away in a few minutes. There was no provocation by anyone that I saw, and in fact extreme composure involving an extremely diverse group of people. ”
Dana shared these photos with us
So we were at St Mary’s Basilica at 3rd st and Monroe in the courtyard And we heard two explosions. Everyone started running from the intersection. Nobody knew what happened, we asked several people. And they said maybe someone threw an empty water bottle but the cops had released a bunch of tear gas and smoke bombs and had fired rubber bullets. So we gave it a few minutes and walked back to the intersection and there was smoke everywhere. Small children with bandannas over their face. And then I saw someone throw another water bottle and everyone started running again
Here’s the thing: people had been chanting PEACEFUL PROTEST all night. I saw the video of someone threw a canister back but it was after the initial attack by cops. And a police helicopter was circling over telling everyone they would be arrested if they didn’t leave. And I would have stayed, but my friends wanted to go. I made snaps while it was happening if you want those. But we walked up second street going north finally, and there was gas everywhere. We couldn’t breathe. So I saw them deploy a smoke bomb or something and I saw one person throw a water bottle that was definitively empty. People were pouring water over their faces and crying. And most people we talked to saw nothing and corroborated that the tear gas was unprovoked.
” My 19 year old niece and I arrived to 2nd st. and Monroe at about 7:30 to meet with our group near Herberger, up against the fence facing south toward the Rally. When we got there, police were dressed in riot gear, but were standing still. Over the two hours we were there, more police arrived and men in polo shirts. The group we stood in were heckling the police, but otherwise peaceful. One man was removed from the crowd, though I was too short to see what he’d done to warrant the removal. I estimate at about 8:45, our group decided to march to City Hall, and my niece and I decided to call it a night. We waded north through the crowd and just as we reached the other side, people began yelling about tear gas and running.”
“Knowing I have a lung disorder and may have been severely hurt by the tear gas, my niece grabbed my wrist, we hopped the orange barricade, and we ran north down 2nd st. We were approaching Van Buren when we heard three consecutive pops, which was confirmed later to be pepper bullets. We continued toward her dorm on Taylor st. and as we were going west down that street, we heard two flash bangs. We stayed inside for some time, where I called for emergency pickup from my brother. When he was approaching, we waited outside but did not feel safe as I was wearing my Not My President shirt and people from the Trump rally were pointing at me and talking among themselves. While we were waiting at the dorms, we heard the helicopter announce to protesters to disperse. I crossed the street and thanked the attending motorcycle cop, who disappointingly shook his head at me. While on my way home, my niece messaged to tell me that the ASU dorms were on lock down and she was no longer allowed to leave. Luckily we were not injured and the rest of my group, though effected by the tear gas, sustained no lasting damage. ”
Trisha shared these photos of the protest with us.
“We arrived around seven o’clock and every thing seemed pretty chill. Lots of chanting, lots of sign waving, lots of people just taking it in. There were some drum circles and people burning sage, extra peaceful shit. No one was being violent, or even excessive or agitated. We walked from 2nd and Monroe down to 3rd and Monroe and it got little more active, but still just more music and chanting. More bullhorns. Then we proceeded to 4th, still just lots of bullhorns and chanting anti Trump “cheers”. We heard that the motorcade might come out somewhere by 3rd so we headed back that way. As soon as we got there, a bunch of people started running towards Van Buren down 3rd, we couldn’t figure that out until we heard the flash bangs. The has started at 2nd and Monroe pushing people towards 3rd with smoke flares and salt pellets. They moved into the park like a tactical military unit removed a sign that said “white supremacy will not be pardoned in Arizona” shot some more salt pellets and retreated back behind the barricade. They fired 3 more flash bangs, started shooting smoke flares at people, and then shot at least 30 canisters of tear gas. All of that happened within the 4 minute video I sent you. The whole time I was walking back and forth, I never saw anyone throw anything, try the breach the barricade, or try to engage with the police at all. It was a completely unprovoked attack that was executed in less than 5 minutes.”
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