Razing Arizona: NYT Reporter Blames Police, LA Books Editor Blames State, After Trump Rally

New York Times reporter Simon Romero, in Phoenix, covered the violent aftermath of Tuesday night's Donald Trump rally, as left-wing protesters, many violent, faced off with Trump fans: “Trump Rally in Phoenix Touches Nerves in City As Opposing Sides Meet.” Besides seeming to blame Trump’s “divisive” speech for hot tempers (including assaults on police officers), Romero suggested the police were at fault.

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.

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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.

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“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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Waving an American flag as he marched past supporters of Mr. Trump, Hugo Torres pointed to a list emblazoned on his shirt under the heading “Bad Hombres”: former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Ku Klux Klan and the 45th president of the United States.

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Shortly after Mr. Torres said those words, a woman waiting to enter the convention center, who wore a T-shirt that read “Trump 45: Suck it up buttercup,” shouted at him: “Hey, can I see your papers? Let me see your papers, dude!”

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Others, however, expressed glee about the event.

Op-ed contributor Tom Zoellner, politics editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books, blamed the state of Arizona itself, in a piece posted on the New York Times on Wednesday:

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What better venue for Mr. Trump, praised just the night before as presidential during his Afghanistan speech, to revert to his natural form? Arizona, after all, is the state that effectively made him president, and not merely for the 11 electoral votes it awarded him last November.

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A few immigration activists showed up with banners, and were immediately set upon by an angry crowd of rally attendees who had just discovered that a loudmouth with a Queens accent was just the right person to shout their frustrations by proxy. Perhaps not coincidentally, this was one of the first rallies of his campaign to be broadcast live on cable. The rowdiness and near-gladiatorial atmosphere -- along with the symbiotic and contradictory dynamic of media-bashing and media glare -- made for ratings gold and would persist at Trump rallies through the campaign. But this strange recipe got its first taste-test in Phoenix.

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Arizona had prepared Mr. Trump’s path in more spiritual ways that long predated that transformative 2015 rally. With an economy built on real-estate deals, and some outright land hustles, Arizona was primed to embrace an outsider promising quick miracles. Bashing Mexican immigrants has played well for at least 20 years with the state’s other significant base of immigrants: Anglo retirees with nest eggs and a leeriness of their new Latino neighbors. And the luxury resorts ringing metro Phoenix are models of gilded Trumpian tackiness.


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