Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect events that took place later in the night.
Though tens of thousands of people were expected to show up to protest President Trump at his rally in Phoenix today, perhaps 1,000 people total – both supporters and detractors of the president – braved the 106-degree heat throughout the day to loudly express their opinions. The tens of thousands did finally show up, though they weren’t the ones expected by the protesters. Trump supporters waited in what was apparently a mile-long line for entrance to the Phoenix Convention Center to hear the president rally the troops. Despite the fears – and for some, hopes – that this would turn into another Charlottesville incident, supporters and protesters alike exchanged barbs, chanted slogans, shouted at one another, but otherwise behaved like rational thinking Americans:
By mid-afternoon, some individual protesters had gathered across the street from the convention center on Second Street just south of Monroe. The atmosphere between protesters and supporters standing in line waiting to get into the convention center was tense at times. Shouts were exchanged.
“Build that wall,” chanted supporters.
“Tear the wall down,” chanted protesters.
No sticks, stones, baseball bats, or torches were visible – and the day continued without incident. As Mr. Trump finally took the stage in front of an estimated 19,000 cheering devotees, the few remaining protesters outside calmly dispersed.
He spoke off-the-cuff, and he was on a roll. He summoned sound bite worthy applause with mentions of the First Amendment, Second Amendment, and American allegiance to God and country. It was quickly evident that campaign Trump had reemerged. He reiterated that we are all one people – Americans together. And yes, he again “strongly” condemned neo-Nazis and white supremacists vigorously, but verbally spanked his detractors for slamming his 24-hour delay in the timing post-Charlottesville.
Donald Trump was in his element, energized by the faithful as he continued to denounce hate, bigotry, and violence. And, of course, Trump’s attack on fake media brought the expected boos from the crowd who chanted “CNN Sucks.”
Rumors swirled leading up to the event that the president was stomping through Phoenix to announce his pardon of beleaguered Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County Sheriff who found himself in hot water for his slash and burn policies regarding illegal immigration. But, alas, the White House issued a statement debunking the myth, and the wind was effectively sucked out of the sails of several immigration protest groups. However, Trump did make a prediction, “He’s going to be just fine.” The message seems clear; a pardon for Arpaio is imminent.
The minions from HuffPost had been working the early crowd to sniff out the stories of the day, and uncovered a bevy of Trump supporters purchasing MAGA merchandise and milling about in the scorching heat, hoping for a front row seat:
Virtually all the Trump supporters interviewed by HuffPost described the president as uniquely truthful, dismissed criticisms of his muddled remarks about white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and backed his rumored decision to pardon former Maricopa County, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
“He tells the truth and he’s a real person ― he’s not a politician,” said Leslie Rainwater, 68. She had traveled from Texas the night before to attend the rally, making a spur of the moment decision after her sister scored tickets.
“I’m more excited about this than seeing the Beatles,” said Rainwater, who saw the Beatles perform three times in the 1960s.
The generosity from this news agency is shocking, but then so is the fact that that Trump is more exciting than the Beatles for Ms. Rainwater – but to each her own.
It appears the President’s endeavor to visit Phoenix and spread his message in a friendly environment was successful. Mr. Trump reassured the flock that the economy was turning around, taxes would go down, and the elite media was on the ropes. Oh, how could I forget; we are going to build that wall.
Although many predicted a Charlottesville repeat, the people of Phoenix demonstrated that you could have opposing views and not erupt in a violent confrontation. You can chant differing messages and escape assault. Just the way Americans are supposed to act. Americans, learn from this event. Be like Phoenix.
Apparently, we spoke too soon. Though the rally itself went off nearly without a hitch, shortly after its conclusion, protesters wearing gas masks arrived to incite violence and create havoc. Police used flash bang grenades and tear gas to deter any further criminal activity after being assaulted by dissenters throwing rocks and liquid filled bottles.
It appears they were not entirely protesting Trump or his stand on issues, but rather police brutality, as undaunted demonstrators chanted, “raised hands, don’t shoot” and repeatedly taunted law enforcement.
Police stood shoulder to shoulder to keep rioters away from the throngs of Trump supporters making their way out of the Phoenix Convention Center. It is does not appear anyone was injured in the protest, though two officers were treated for heat exhaustion. The Phoenix Police Department reported five arrests, though one was apparently an unrelated warrant.