Thousands of peaceful citizens who gathered in extreme heat to protest Trump’s Phoenix rally on August 22 were subjected to excessive and indiscriminate force by police. Officers wearing masks and wielding shields set off flash grenades (designed to mimic a traumatizing war zone), fired rubber bullets, threw tear gas canisters, and sprayed people with pepper spray that forced them to get medical treatment.
Phoenix Police Department Sgt. Jonathan Howard said the officers deployed these chemical weapons after one person among 5,000 to 10,000 peaceful protestors threw rocks and water bottles at the police. However, there is debate as to what exactly happened.
The Phoenix Urban Health Collective, which provided medics at the protest, issued a statement affirming that “NO warning or order to disperse was given prior to deploying chemical weapons and stun grenades.” They also stated that hundreds of innocent people, including “young children, elderly people, people with disabilities, and people with pre-existing cardiopulmonary illness… were subjected to chemical weapons without cause or warning.”
The police are investigating the situation, but of course the police department (or any organization) cannot be trusted to investigate itself.
The ACLU of Arizona is calling for an independent investigation and asking people to submit verbal testimony, videos or photographic evidence of excessive use of force by police. The ACLU will use this evidence to advocate for clear and appropriate policies about the use of crowd-control weapons.
“The police failed to protect the First Amendment rights of protesters,” announced Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona. “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 protestors outside… Law enforcement’s decision to swiftly and brutally end hours of civil protest could profoundly chill the freedoms of speech and assembly in Phoenix for years to come… Who in the future would want to take the risk to protest in Phoenix when it is clear that the city’s police department will take physical action against them without cause or notice?”
Sandra Castro Solis, community engagement coordinator for the ACLU of Arizona, added, “Community organizations planned for days to ensure the protest would be nonviolent, including hosting multiple de-escalation trainings, preparing legal observers, and ensuring water and medical care were available. That was all undone when police suddenly decided the time for peaceful protest was over.”
If you attended the protest and would like to submit evidence to the ACLU about police misconduct, send written complaints to the following website: https://action.aclu.org/secure/az-complaint-form. You can submit video and photo evidence via Dropbox: http://bit.ly/2v6RtDV.
You can also contact the Phoenix Police Department (602-262-6151) and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (602-262-7111) to file a complaint about the excessive force used to disperse the peaceful crowd.
In addition, Puente is inviting anyone who wants to hold Phoenix police accountable to come to the Phoenix Council meeting on Wednesday, August 30 at 2:30 p.m. at the Phoenix City Council Chambers, 200 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix.