President Donald Trump held a campaign-style rally at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday Aug. 22.
Despite the 100-degree heat, thousands of individuals attended the event, with supporters and protesters meeting in the downtown Phoenix area early afternoon Tuesday.
The rally comes a week after Mr. Trump’s controversial comments regarding the violence that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia in which Heather Heyer was killed. While supporters felt the president effectively denounced those responsible for the violence in Charlottesville, critics felt his response was overdue and disingenuous, with many protesters calling the president a “racist” and a “Nazi sympathizer.”
Inside the convention center, Mr. Trump recalled the events in Charlottesville and his response to the violence, blaming the media for creating division and uproar over his statement. The president reread part of his statement, omitting the “many sides” portion which drew the most criticism, reiterating that he felt his comments were unequivocal and that the media were responsible for creating confusion. Mr. Trump said that it was “time to challenge the crooked media deceptions.”
The president went on to talk about race relations and the possible pardoning of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose police tactics and immigration enforcement has drawn sharp criticism. In 2011, Arpaio defied a judge’s order which directed him to discontinue racial profiling during patrols and was recently found guilty of contempt of court. While Mr. Trump told the crowd that he would not be pardoning the sheriff that night as to not stir controversy, he did not rule out the possibility, saying, “I think [Arpaio is] going to be just fine, OK?”
As attendees exited the rally they were met with protester chants and boos, with many shouting, “shame on you” and “not my president.” Despite several verbal confrontations between protesters and supporters, the crowds were mostly non-violent.
Shortly after the president wrapped up his rally, however, the Phoenix Police Department ordered everyone to disperse. After the crowd remained, police deployed tear gas and pepper balls and spray.
According to Sgt. Jonathan Howard of the Phoenix Police Department, the actions were in response to growing tensions from the crowd. “People in the crowd began fighting and throwing rocks and bottles at the police,” said Howard.
Arguments and shouting matches continued on the street and at Light Rail stations as helicopters circled the Phoenix skyline.
The president will spend Wednesday in Reno, Nevada for a second rally at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.