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Photos: Police use tear gas, pepper balls to disperse protest at Trump's Phx rally

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Phoenix Police officers used tear gas and pepper ball launchers to clear protestors following President Donald Trump's rally in downtown Phoenix on Aug. 22. - Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

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The Phoenix Police Department fired gas and used pepper-ball launchers to disperse hundreds of protesters who had gathered in the city's downtown to demonstrate during President Donald Trump's speech Tuesday night.

The police use of less-than-lethal force took place after the president's rally, as many of the more than 10,000 protesters had already left the area.

Four people were arrested during the demonstration, said Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams during a press conference with reporters roughly an hour after the incident. Two were arrested for assault after striking police officers, said Williams, while another person was arrested for criminal damage. A fourth person was arrested on an unrelated warrant earlier in the day, said Williams. 

"Officers were forced to protect themselves, the community and property," said Williams. "They did so successfully and professionally." 

Williams said that protesters threw gas at police and that officers responded.

"We were prepared and we were decisive," she said.

Earlier, about 10,000 people had thronged the streets outside the Phoenix Convention Center, protesting Trump. Their numbers had dwindled after the rally ended, with a few hundred on the street when the police action began.

Tania Lopez, 27, said she couldn't tell what prompted the police to use tear gas. 

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"Everyone was so calm until the first can came in. A man said, 'no one panic, no one panic.' I tried to stay calm, thinking the gas wouldn't be so bad, but when it hits you and everything... I threw up." 

"People were very, very upset they did expect it. They didn't think it was justified or warranted by any of our actions,"  she said.

"I saw things go from this side to this side. I saw tear gas canisters being shot from this side to this side. I don’t know if anything precipitated anything," said Kevin Lanoue, 52, from Tucson. "It was like they did it so they could clear the streets so that Trump supporters coming out of the event would be jeered as they came out." 

Another man, Mark Mayer, said that police fired on the crowd first, sending a gas canister "hurtling over our heads." 

For more than an hour, police and protesters skirmished at several street intersections, with police using gas and pepper ball launchers to clear protesters, and Trump supporters who argued with protesters, and others who were trapped by police cordons as they tried to get to their cars. 

Ultimately, police were able to clear the area, leaving only trash and the faint smell of pepper spray.

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