When a few people began throwing rocks and bottles at police, officers used smoke, pepper spray and “flash bang” stun grenades, surprising many in the crowd.
As many expressed confusion and frustration about why Phoenix police used smoke canisters, pepper spray and flash bangs on largely peaceful crowds after President Trump’s rally last night, Police Chief Jeri Williams stood by her officers but said the agency would investigate their actions, the Arizona Republic reports. Supporters and protesters taunted each other but largely refrained from violence, thanks in part to a heavy police presence. After the speech, police say a few people began throwing rocks and bottles at police and dispersing gas.
Officers in riot gear swiftly began using aggressive crowd-control tactics, stunning many in the crowd who had no idea the show of non-lethal force was coming. A line of officers pushed the crowds north and blocked intersections. They warned the crowd from a helicopter to leave or face arrest. Two people were arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault on police and one person was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage. Reyna Montoya of the non-profit organization Aliento, said police should have given more warning. “I saw people who were in wheelchairs, people with babies, elderly people (hit),” she said. “It was unacceptable.” There were conflicting accounts of what police used on crowds and when. Police spokesman Sgt. Jonathan Howard said officers used progressively aggressive weapons for crowd control. Police began with smoke, then balls of pepper spray, then escalated to stun grenades or “flash bangs,” then pepper spray, then stronger gas. In the speech, Trump again hinted that he would pardon former sheriff Joe Arpaio, but made no formal announcement.