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Opinions split after Trump protest in downtown Phoenix

Protesters raise their hands after Phoenix police used tear gas outside the Phoenix Convention Center, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, in Phoenix. Protests were held against President Trump as he hosted a rally inside the convention center. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — What began as a peaceful protest against President Donald Trump in downtown Phoenix on Tuesday ended with tear gas, pepper spray and police telling everyone to go home.

About 24 hours after the protest, officials and activists remained split over the events of the protest.

Most city officials praised police, while some activists claimed officers took things too far.

We gathered many opinions on the protest and have organized excerpts from them below. If possible, we attached an audio link so you can listen to leaders talk about the protests in their own words or linked out to a full statement.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton:

“I am incredibly proud of the thousands of people and community organizations who exercised their First Amendment rights peacefully last night during what we knew would be a very tense and emotional scene. They represent the best of our community.

My top priority, and that of Police Chief Jeri Williams, was to ensure that every person who attended the Trump campaign rally, those who expressed themselves outside the convention center, and the police officers on duty, got home safely. I am grateful that happened, and that there were only four arrests.”

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams:

“I absolutely give my folks an A+.”

“I’m so proud to be the police chief of men and women who literally showed that professionalism — under contentious scenarios and situations — they demonstrated it flawlessly.”

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone:

“The Phoenix Police Department led by example. They were sound, responsible and professional … You could not have asked for more under those dynamics. Kudos to them.”

Tempe City Councilman David Schapira:

“The other thing I want to make clear was there were no warnings. There was no warning broadcast to the crowd that pepperballs were being deployed. I’ll tell you, working on the Tempe City Council with our Tempe Police Department, that’s standard operating procedure to make a dispersal announcement and then, if you’re going to deploy something like pepperballs, give some sort of warning so that people that are there peacefully gathering can leave.

“A few minutes later, they deployed tear gas, once again without any warning.”

U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego:

“I immediately called Mayor Greg Stanton to request a full and transparent investigation and to provide the community a detailed account of the events that led to the actions from the police department. I also call on the mayor and the city council to hold a community meeting to seek input from the community to assist in the investigation.

“The protest organizers worked extremely hard to maintain peace and order. We owe it to the community to understand what happened and ensure that we can continue to cultivate trust and accountability during these times of increased tensions.”

Puente Arizona:

“The city failed us yesterday,” organizer Francisca Porchas said.

“We were terrorized, we were attacked by the Phoenix Police Department. They came in as if this was a war zone,” another Puente organizer Carlos Garcia said.

Living United for Change in Arizona:

“The way they treated peaceful protesters (Tuesday) was disgusted aggressive and violent. There were mothers and children here that were running from tear gas with no warning.”

Black Lives Matter:

“The officers that were apparently targeted were dressed in riot gear. They had helmets, they had face shields, they had ballistic body armor. They were in no danger whatsoever.”

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery:

“While we wait to see the outcome of their (Phoenix Police Department) after-action review, I want to express the respect I have for the way they swiftly and decisively dealt with small fractions of individuals who attempted isolated acts of violence.

“For those who were law-abiding, free speech was protected. For those who sought to use or promote violence, public safety was protected.”

American Civil Liberties Union:

“The police failed to protect the First Amendment rights of protesters. Shortly after Donald Trump finished attacking the First Amendment rights of the press inside of the Phoenix Convention Center, Phoenix police began attacking the First Amendment rights of protesters outside.

“They used harmful chemical agents against a peaceful crowd, which turned a nonviolent gathering into one where many, many people were harmed.”

Phoenix Law Enforcement Association:

(On alleged use of rubber bullets on a protester) “What he was shot with is what we call a pepperball gun,” PLEA President Ken Crane said. “Think of a paintball gun: There’s round balls that look like paintballs, but instead they’re filled with a small amount of chemical agent. It could be tear gas, it could be CS powder.”

Phoenix City Councilman Daniel Valenzuela:

“Tens of thousands of people traveled downtown to express their First Amendment rights and were able to do so in a safe and orderly setting. The events that unfolded at the end of the evening warrants further review. I join with my colleagues in asking for that review and I look forward to obtaining all the facts in an expeditious manner.”

Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski:

“Unfortunately, a very successful and peaceful expression of First Amendment rights throughout the day, was blemished by a small group of individuals who chose to express themselves in a more aggressive manner towards our law enforcement. As previously communicated in the days prior, law enforcement acted quickly and decisively to protect the community, property, and themselves.”

KTAR News’ Kathy Cline, Corbin Carson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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