Phoenix police use pepper spray on Trump protesters

PHOENIX — At the conclusion of Tuesday’s campaign-style rally by Donald Trump, police used pepper spray to disperse crowds of protesters who had gathered to voice their displeasure with the president.

After the president left the stage inside the Phoenix Convention Center, police deployed pepper spray balls on the hundreds of protesters who lingered outside.

Sergeant Jonathan Howard, a spokesperson for the Phoenix Police told Yahoo News the tactic had been deployed in an effort “to disperse the crowd.”

A screengrab from video of Phoenix police using pepper spray to disperse ant-Trump demonstrators on Aug. 22. (Video: Hunter Walker/Yahoo News)
A screengrab from video of Phoenix police using pepper spray to disperse ant-Trump demonstrators on Aug. 22. (Video: Hunter Walker/Yahoo News)

“People in the crowd began fighting and throwing rocks and bottles at police. They also dispersed some gas in the area. Police have responded with pepper balls and OC spray in an attempt to disperse the crowd and stop the assaults. Please encourage your audiences to leave the area,” Howard said.

Howard said that there had been no arrests. He described the crowd dispersal efforts as ongoing.

Police were on high alert for the event following the violence in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month that left three people dead. The atmosphere outside was tense throughout the event. There were multiple militant groups in the crowd including masked anti-fascist protesters, right-wing Proud Boys, members of multiple outlaw biker clubs, and militia men from both sides of the political spectrum who were armed with rifles. In spite of this charged atmosphere, the police largely kept the Trump supporters separated from the protesters, and there were no major violent clashes during the rally.

Shortly after 8:30 p.m., after the bulk of the Trump supporters departed, Yahoo News heard two loud crashes from the main protest area across from the convention center. As we approached, it became clear police had deployed gas on the crowd. Police then fired off more rounds that went off with loud bangs and launched into the air a grey, acidic smoke that set eyes and throats aflame. As the fumes hung in the air, lines of police clad in riot gear moved forward to ensure the crowd of protesters left.

Slideshow: Trump rally in Phoenix draws protesters from both sides >>>

Though one water bottle was thrown at the police, the protesters repeatedly shouted that they had not been violent and the gas was unprovoked. The crowd dispersed and cleared the area.

“Free speech!” one shouted.

“We’re peaceful protesters,” said another.

As the gas spread blocks away from the site of the protest, police helicopters circled the area broadcasting an announcement.

“Leave the area or you’ll be sprayed with pepper spray,” it said.

As of this writing, the police helicopters are still circling overhead, warning people to leave or they will be subject to arrest.

Related video:

Read more from Yahoo News: