The police used tear gas to disperse crowds numbering in the thousands on Tuesday night outside the Phoenix Convention Center as tempers flared around President Trump’s divisive speech at a campaign-style rally here.
Hundreds of people ran off, streaming into the surrounding streets, coughing and wiping tears from their eyes.
Police helicopters circled above downtown Phoenix after the speech, telling people to leave the area or face arrest. While tensions were high before and during the speech — the police tried to keep supporters and opponents of the president apart outside — they escalated afterward.
Jeri L. Williams, the chief of the Phoenix Police Department, said at a news conference late Tuesday night that officers were attacked with bottles, rocks, and tear gas, and that two officers were being treated for heat exhaustion at a hospital.
She disputed the suggestion that officers were overly aggressive, saying they responded with tear gas and so-called pepper balls, which emit pepper spray, only after they were assaulted.
But some witnesses said that events unfolded differently, with protesters throwing a water bottle or two in the direction of the police, before the police fired tear gas into the crowd.
Mayor Greg Stanton, who also spoke at the news conference, said that the police had attempted to allow people on the streets of downtown Phoenix to protest peacefully, and that there had been no serious injuries. But he added that officials were going to examine whether the approach by the police was necessary.
“There’s going to be an after-incident review,” Mr. Stanton said.
Four people were arrested in connection with the rally, including two people charged with assaulting police officers, the authorities said.
“The handling by the police of this peaceful protest was reprehensible,” said Jordan Lauterbach, 31, a bartender who drove from Flagstaff to join in the demonstrations against Mr. Trump. “I was gassed tonight for exercising my right to express my views. I was disgusted by that.”
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SOURCE: NY Times, Simon Romero