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Large police shootings protest held in Phoenix, three arrested

A protester raises him arms in front of a police blockade as marchers take to the streets to demonstrate against the recent fatal shootings of black men by police, Friday, July 8, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — At least three people were arrested Friday night in Phoenix during a protest over two fatal police shootings of African-American men.

At one point, protesters moved to block Interstate 10 — a main artery of downtown Phoenix — but were halted by police.

The protest came just 24 hours after a man opened fire on a similarly-themed protest in downtown Dallas. Five police officers were killed and seven more were injured.

The Phoenix protest began about 8 p.m. at City Hall, located near Third Avenue and Washington Street. As many as 1,000 protesters were in attendance.

The protest moved peacefully through the streets for about two hours, until its leader, the Rev. Jarrett Maupin, changed the planned route.

Instead of wrapping up near the Roosevelt District on downtown’s northern edge, he told several media outlets he planned to block Interstate 10 at Seventh Avenue, though most protesters ended up on Seventh Street.

Police were quick to respond.

Interstate 10, along with the ramps from State Route 51 and Interstate 17, was closed for a little under an hour.

At one point, traffic was backed up for about a mile on some freeways.

Several similar protests have blocked freeways in the past.

Though Maupin quickly backed down from his stance, there was a tense standoff between protesters and police. Social media posts (WARNING: LINK CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE AND DISTURBING CONTENT) showed officers spraying what appeared to be pepper spray.

Live news streams shows protesters throwing objects at police. Officials later confirmed that some officers were hit by rocks.

Police were seen firing what appeared to be pepper balls at protesters near Seventh and Roosevelt streets. They were also wearing gas masks.

About 11 p.m., police were telling protesters to disperse and declared that those remaining were unlawfully assembled.

Shortly after, news feeds showed officers tackling a man on camera. He was arrested.

Minor scuffles broke out when a man wearing a “Make America Great Again” T-shirt and holding a Donald Trump campaign sign interrupted the protest. Police pulled the man aside to let the marchers continue.

At least six people were injured in the protests. Their conditions are unknown, but police said most complaints were about the pepper spray or falls.

The rally was initially linked to the Black Lives Matter movement, but the group said later Friday that it would play no part in the protest and did not sanction the event.

“The Rev. Jarrett Maupin does not represent Arizona Black Lives Matter and his event is not sanctioned,” the group said in a release.

Mayor Greg Stanton called for the protest to be delayed for safety’s sake earlier Friday. However, he said he supports Phoenicians voicing their concerns over the nationwide relationship between police and the community.

“If the organizers choose to go forward and exercise their First Amendment rights tonight (Friday), the city of Phoenix will do everything in our power to make sure the public, and our police officers are safe,” he said in a release.

Councilman Sal DiCiccio asked for the rally be canceled.

“He was pretty adamant about going forward and I understand that, he has a First Amendment right. But there’s also a public safety issue right now,” DiCiccio said.

Maupin said other council members also asked that the event be called off.

“We’re committed to the nonviolent tradition of advocacy,” Maupin said. “We will not veer from that course of action.”

The rally, he said, was “anti-police brutality, anti-excessive force, misconduct, racial profiling and anti-racism. … we are not against the police.

“The people who harmed the police in Dallas were domestic terrorists, there is no room for that in this movement.”

The Dallas shooter has been identified as Micah Xavier Johnson, 25. He was killed after a standoff with police in a parking garage. Police sent in a robot armed with an explosive device, which was detonated.

Police Chief David Brown said Johnson told them he wanted to kill white officers.

The attack was the deadliest single day for law enforcement since Sept. 11.

Prior to the event, Maupin said he did not foresee physical confrontations.

“We did not have violence in the city of Phoenix (after the police-involved deaths of Cleveland’s Tamir Rice or Baltimore’s Freddie Gray). We don’t want to see violence.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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