Police in the southwestern U.S. city of Phoenix, Arizona, used tear gas late Tuesday to disperse groups of protesters from outside the site where President Donald Trump had just given a campaign-style rally.
Ahead of the address, police worked to keep Trump protesters and supporters separated, but there were minor scuffles and shouting matches as hundreds of people lined up outside the city’s convention center to enter the rally — the president’s first major political event since violent clashes earlier this month in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The thousands of protesters included left-wing groups angered by Trump’s public comments about Charlottesville. Although the president shifted his stance on the right-wing demonstration that precipitated the clashes, many were angered by his most recent remarks, which blamed “both sides” for the violence.
Native Americans and groups that oppose Trump’s immigration and environmental policies also mounted protests Tuesday.
Thousands of Facebook members posted notes that they would attend the Phoenix protests. Some gathered at the convention center where Trump was to speak; others took part in marches organized by the city’s churches.
As opposing groups converged in central Phoenix, police tried to keep them separated. Trump supporters shouted, “Build that wall! Build that wall!” — a reference to the border wall Trump hopes to build between the U.S. and Mexico.
Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams told reporters the city has played host to large, heated political rallies in the past, and has opened lines of communication with several groups, both supporters and opponents of the president.
The police chief said her officers would try to ensure that everyone would be able to “exercise their First Amendment rights” of free speech and assembly.
“We’ve done this before,” she told reporters. “This is not new for us.”
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery warned that police would not tolerate any violence and said “prosecutors will be ready to use all applicable laws to hold people accountable for their actions.”
“It does not matter which group or creed you affiliate with,” Montgomery said. “If you engage in violence you will be subject to arrest and prosecution.”
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, greeted Trump’s arrival in Phoenix late Tuesday, but he was not attending the rally.
Neither of Arizona’s two Republican senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, attended the Trump rally. Trump has engaged in public spats with both men in recent weeks.
In Photos: Trump Brings His Build-a-Wall Message to Arizona