GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING: Trump supporters, protesters clash outside rally

GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING: Trump supporters, protesters clash outside rally
(Source: Tucson News Now)
(Source: Tucson News Now)

PHOENIX (Tucson News Now) - President Donald Trump was in Arizona for a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center on Tuesday night, Aug. 22, but there were fireworks outside long before the start of the event.

Hours before the rally started, Trump supporters and protesters began clashing.

Both sides exchanged heated words, but there were no arrests or major incidents as of 7 p.m.

"There is much activity downtown in and around the convention center," said Sgt. Jonathan Howard, spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department. "So far, there have been no arrests or significant incidents. We appreciate all of you keeping the message of peaceful demonstrations first and foremost in your reporting. It seems to be working and helping keep our crowds safe."

According to the Associated Press, police officers formed a line in the middle of a street to separate the protesters and Trump supporters.

In one exchange, a Trump supporter and protester shoved each other. In another, the two groups shouted at each other before moving on.

Trump supporters began gathering before dawn and many in the crowd wore Trump pins, "Make America Great Again" hats and shirts bearing images of the Statue of Liberty and American flags.

The crowd gathered just a block away from where opponents of the president outlined their plans to peaceably protest his policies on the environment, immigration, the border wall and what some called "an assault on civil rights."

Trump supporter Diane Treon of Kingman said she's been at the convention center since 4 a.m. and is thrilled at the chance to see the president.

Treon said she's concerned about planned protests but believes Phoenix police will ensure a safe event.

City of Phoenix spokeswoman Julie Watters said the fire marshal has set capacity for the venue at 19,000.

Organizers of the protests planned during Trump's visit said they're gathering to stand up against what they call "the politics of hate."

Tucson vice mayor Regina Romero told reporters at a Tuesday morning news conference organized by the Mi Famila Vota organization that the groups "refuse to idly stand by while Trump destroys everything America stands for."

Romero said Arizona Latinos are gathering to show their opposition to what she called "Trump's racism, assaults on civil rights, horrific border wall and attacks on public lands, our environment and working families."

Trump's Tuesday evening campaign-style rally in reliably-Republican Arizona comes as he tries to reinvigorate his presidency after months of controversy. The problems were topped by comments he made last week about both sides having blame for violence at a white supremacist rally in Virginia.

Earlier in the day Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, said a pardon by President Trump of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio would send a clear signal to the nation that Trump condones the racial profiling that led to the sheriff's recent conviction.

Grijalva also said Tuesday that a pardon would hurt those "victimized and selectively persecuted" after being stopped during the sheriff's anti-immigration patrols.

Arpaio was convicted in July of misdemeanor contempt of court for disobeying a judge's order to stop the patrols. The conviction stems from a civil rights case in which Arpaio's deputies were found to have racially profiled Latinos.

Trump told a Fox News interviewer last week that he was considering a pardon for Arpaio, who was voted out of office last year.

Grijalva made the comments after a news conference where organizers of protests targeting Trump at a planned Phoenix rally outlined reasons for their efforts.

You can read more coverage of Trump's visit HERE.

The clash between protesters and Trump supporters got heated and there were several curse words shouted during the skirmish.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

MOBILE USERS: Download our Tucson News Now app for Apple and Android devices.

Copyright 2017 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.