At least four arrested after protest outside President Trump's rally turns violent

Published: Aug. 23, 2017 at 1:01 AM MST|Updated: Aug. 23, 2017 at 10:45 AM MST
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PHOENIX, AZ (Tucson News Now) - What started out calm soon turned into chaos following President Donald Trump's rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night, Aug. 22.

Police said they began deploying pepper balls and tear gas into the crowd around 9 p.m., reportedly because people were throwing rocks and bottles at police.

It all happened in the area of Second Street and Van Buren in downtown Phoenix.

MOBILE USERS: Photos of the protests

According to Sgt. Jonathan Howard, spokesman with the Phoenix Police Department, gas was also released by the crowds.

At least four people were arrested on charges ranging from assaulting an officer to criminal damage.

PPD Chief Jeri L. Williams said tens of thousands protested peacefully and it was a small group that caused problems by breaking barriers and shooting gas at police

Despite the chaos, there were no major injuries.

Earlier Tuesday, it looked as if Trump's rally would turn out to be a peaceful event.

As the event got underway, Phoenix police said there had been "no arrests or significant incidents."

But that all changed as the crowds began to spill out of the convention center, and people reportedly started throwing things at police.

An organizer of one of the largest protests said his group did not start the violence.

"It was peaceful," Carlos Garcia of Puente Arizona said. "We started getting shot at by rubber bullets."

Police said the tear gas was only deployed in response to provocation from protesters hurling things at them.

Capt. Rob McDade, spokesman for Phoenix Fire Department, said that as of 6 p.m. they had treated 48 people for heat-related problems, most of them for dehydration. Of those, two were adult women who were taken to a hospital for further evaluation, he said. At least two police officers were also treated for heat-related problems.

State Democratic leaders urged people who wanted to show their opposition to the president's policies to gather at a city-designated free-speech zone near the site of the rally.

The message to protesters echoed those coming from law enforcement and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. Stanton said he expected protesters to be "civil, respectful and peaceful." Police Chief Jeri Williams said First Amendment rights will be supported, but criminal conduct will be swiftly addressed.

Some of Trump's supporters were so keen to see the president that they began queuing up before dawn for the 7 p.m. rally.

"It's been on a bucket list of mine, since he became the president," Kingman resident Diane Treon said, who arrived at 4 a.m. "I wished I had attended one of his campaign rallies before he became president, and I wanted to go to the inauguration. And truthfully it was the protests that kept me away."

Treon said she wishes protesters "would be a little more peaceful instead of violently rioting, which is happening in so many places" but isn't overly worried.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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