PHOENIX — An Arizona congressman said Friday that he wants a full investigation into a protest against President Donald Trump’s Phoenix rally that ended with tear gas and arrests.
“The best thing we can do is to have a full and transparent review because that way there is no accusations that somehow we (Phoenix officials) were trying to cover up anything,” Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes.
Gallego, who attended the protest but left before the gas and pepperballs were fired, said he talked to several people who felt the police had overstepped in controlling the situation.
“One of the reasons I’ve asked for an investigation is, first of all, any time there’s use of force by police officer or any government agency against any citizen, there should always be an investigation,” he said.
“We need to have accountability for those that we give power to.”
Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams told Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes earlier this week that her department would perform a full review that was expected to take several weeks. She also said she felt her officers conducted themselves well.
“I absolutely give my folks an A+,” she said Wednesday.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona also said it wanted an independent probe of the post-rally altercation.
Gallego, whose congressional district includes downtown Phoenix, said he also wanted the investigation to examine the actions of officers after a few protesters started to become violent.
“If there was somebody throwing a rock or anything else like that, then absolutely you need to pacify that situation,” he said. “But to what extent did it go overboard trying to disperse the whole crowd? If that’s the case, is that the best way to do it?”
Gallego, a Marine who served in Iraq, said he understood the pressures on police wearing riot gear during Tuesday’s 100-plus degree temperatures.
“I know how hard it is to keep your cool when suddenly things go bad, but part of that is discipline,” he said. “If you have discipline, you keep it. I’m not saying the police didn’t have it, but that’s also why you have to do a review.”
Gallego, who contacted Mayor Greg Stanton the night of the protest to ask for the investigation, said he wants an an inquiry that includes outside and impartial experts and community members.
“It’s not that I don’t believe what they (police) are going to put out, it’s just that, again, this is an interaction that happened between police and citizens,” he said.
“I think part of that is that the investigation also has to have a citizen’s component to it because whatever report comes out, it’s only going to come out from the perspective of the police from their experience.”
Gallego said a transparent investigation into the protest would help re-establish public trust and possibly give the police a chance to make changes to its operating procedures — should any be warranted — before the next big event arrives in town.
“There’s always going to be some dumb person who is going to try something at one of these events and ruin the whole event for everybody else, but that doesn’t mean you want to go to the extent that we went to that day,” he said.
Gallego said the investigation may show officers there was a better way to handle the handful of protesters who could have been looking to pick a fight.
The congressman said the investigation would also look into several what-if scenarios, such as the thousands of protesters turning violent or putting them in a different location.
“[The protest site] was packed and it was dense and it was kind of in a canyon,” he said. “The other thing is it may not even have been the city of Phoenix’s decision where to put this. It may have been the Secret Service.”