In a public statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union, the group claims that the actions of the Phoenix police caused the violence to erupt from anti-Trump protesters outside his rally. They called for an investigation into what they said was a breach of the protesters' constitutional rights.
ACLU of Arizona’s executive director, Alessandra Soler, made the accusations in a statement released Wednesday.
“The police failed to protect the First Amendment rights of protesters. 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 protesters outside,” read the statement.
“They used harmful chemical agents against a peaceful crowd, which turned a nonviolent gathering into one where many, many people were harmed," she continued. "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.”
Videos from social media show that police deployed tear gas in order to disperse the crowd. They reported that some were throwing bottles at the police.
The statement from the ACLU contradicts the police claim that they responded to unprovoked violence from the anti-Trump protesters.
“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?” Soler continued in the statement. “The health risks associated with deploying so-called ‘nonlethal’ weapons cannot be understated. Tear gas and pepper spray can have devastating health effects.”
The news outlet Reuters had to correct itself and delete a tweet that called the Phoenix anti-Trump protesters "peaceful," lending credence to the narrative that they were violent before any police provocation.