On August 22nd, President Trump spoke at a Republican rally at the Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Thousands of his supporters attended, and at least two thousand Antifa protesters showed up outside. The city was ready for them; shopkeepers in the area closed early and shut their security-gates, and a very large (undisclosed) number of police came early too – to keep the protesters well separated from the attendees. Trump, as it turned out, didn’t have that much to say, and the rally itself soon grew boring. The real show was outside.
Despite common stereotypes – yes, spread by the major news media – Arizona is not a “red state”; it’s a weird state. Among other things, it has no racial majority. Its base population averages a little over 30% White, a little under 30% Indian (mostly Navaho), roughly 30% mixed White and Indian (which is exactly what a “Latino” is, and most of those are Old Spanish, not Mexican – long story), a little over 5% Black and a little under 5% Asian. This demographic spread is not precisely reflected in the police department (Asians usually have much better-paying jobs, and Indians who go into police work prefer to take jobs as Tribal Police on the reservations), but there are a lot of non-White cops in Phoenix. This means that Phoenix police can’t afford to be racist.
Also, this is a “Constitutional carry” state, which means that any non-felon can carry a firearm within the state, concealed, without a permit. Anybody you pass on the street could be armed, at any time, and everybody knows it; this means, as Heinlein once noted, that Arizonians tend to be very polite in public. People who are visibly impolite in public promptly brand themselves as foreigners at best, dangerous at worst – and easily identifiable to the police.
It should not surprise any Arizonian that the police stood calmly, shoulder to shoulder, blocking access roads and keeping the readily-identified Antifa protesters (BLM stayed away; there were almost no Black faces among the protesters) safely away from the Convention Center and its attendees – no matter how the protesters stamped and waved and yelled – or that the attendees, Arizonians themselves, also remained calm and polite despite the provocation. And the Antifas did do their best to provoke – but only verbally, until the sun went down.
Now remember, all of this was extensively videotaped by a lot of reporters from a lot of different local TV stations, and shown on those same stations that night. They rivaled each other to show different angles, physical and political, of everything that happened – and what happened was remarkably revealing.
First, after Trump had left, and the crowds were quickly informed by loudspeaker from overhead circling helicopters, the attendees got up to leave – and that was when the Antifa crowd started its action. The protesters who had simply come to wave signs and be noticed began to walk away, leaving the serious Antifa crowd – who surged toward the departing attendees, yelling insults at them. The departing attendees very nicely refused to be provoked – one woman, being railed at by a man claiming to be “Hispanic”, archly asked: “Can you show us your legal immigration papers? Can you show us your ID?” – before the police gently but firmly pushed the man away. There was only one man, in an SUV, who responded rudely; he drove past the Antifas, flipping them a Nazi salute out the window. The Antifas took after him on foot, throwing those loaded bottles, but police on motorcycles went after him faster and chivvied him out of the neighborhood.
This left the Antifas no target except the police themselves, who were politely but firmly ordering the crowd to disperse. The Antifas let loose with those loaded bottles, rocks, and hand-cannister pepper-spray, which the police handily deflected. The Antifas, or course, refused to disperse, but threw more bottles, at al. The police tossed a few tear-gas canisters, one of which a protester kicked back, whereupon the police kicked it aside and started shooting “pepper-balls” – small balls which break open on impact, scattering powdered tear-gas – much harder to pick up and throw back. The police also formed arm-in-arm barriers fronted with plastic shields, and moved slowly but steadily forward, pushing the Antifa crowd down the streets and away from the Convention Center. The Antifas retreated, but formed tight defensive knots from which to hurl their missiles and shoot their own pepper-sprays. There are no reports that they used lighted hair-spray as small flame-throwers. The police responded with smoke-grenades and flash-bangs, which spoiled the Antifas’ aim, and continued to push them down the street. Eventually the Antifas gave up and departed. Afterward, of course, the Antifas complained to the media about police “excesses” and “brutality”, but the videos didn’t back them up.
The two remarkable things about this incident are, first, how intelligently the police were deployed, and second, how the Antifas’ tactics mirror those which BLM and friends used in Ferguson, Missouri, three years ago. Back then, for day after day, the local protesters marched in the streets complaining about the police, then gathered at a rally where local preachers spoke, then scattered around sundown to their homes or various churches. That was the point when the BLM “activists” would peel off from the church crowd and run about the city’s streets, smashing windows, robbing stores, and setting fires – not caring how many of the stores were Black-owned.
The Antifas in Phoenix were thwarted in their hopes of copying BLM in Ferguson because the Phoenix shopkeepers closed and secured their stores, and the police did not abandon the area once Trump had left. One can almost pity their disappointment. The media certainly did. Even the supposedly-impartial New York Times concentrated its attention on the poor protesters who were chased off with tear gas: “Hundreds of people ran off, streaming into the surrounding streets, coughing and wiping tears from their eyes” after “Trump’s divisive speech”.
At his speech Trump lambasted the media for lying and bias. The media – outside of Phoenix, anyway – returned the favor. The inhabitants of Arizona, who had seen the whole thing, were unimpressed by both of them, and particularly unimpressed with Antifa.