Phoenix City Council members voted against an independent review of police actions at President Trump’s rally after protest from community members.
Emotions were raw in the packed council chambers on Wednesday as residents expressed their anger at the Phoenix Police Department’s use of tear gas and pepper balls to disperse protesters outside the Phoenix Convention Center last Tuesday.
“If you really want to resolve this issue, ban the acquisition and use of military grade weapons, quit playing the blame game and criminalizing protesters…and scale back the PD,” Heather Hamel, founder and executive director of Justice That Works, said.
Statements were decidedly one-sided throughout the five hour meeting as protesters refused to let city leaders speak. The few attendees who had opposing views were booed off the microphone and confronted as they left the building.
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Iraq War veteran Vaughn Berry attempted to go on record with a statement in support of the police and was eventually drowned out by jeers from the angry crowd.
“I had no idea that there was going to be such a mob mentality in there,” Berry said. “I thought the Phoenix Police were actually quite restrained and quite polite, even when they were being called racists and fascists, and I thought they did a good job.”
One matter that both sides did agree on was that an independent review wasn’t the solution, and many expressed distrust for OIR Group, Inc., the firm engaged by City Manager Ed Zuercher to conduct the review.
“OIR is a firm that has no legitimacy in this community,” Hamel said.
— Derek Hall (@DerekNealHall) August 30, 2017
District 6 Councilman Sal DiCiccio bashed the firm in a statement posted to his Facebook page on Monday, calling the independent review a “witch hunt.”
“Frankly, this ‘consulting firm’ would have fit in beautifully in Salem circa 1692,” DiCiccio said. “They are political witch hunters, and they won’t be satisfied until they’ve found some witches to burn.”
Public comments in the Phoenix Council Chambers continued non-stop before Mayor Stanton regained control of the meeting and council members could speak.
After stating that he did not support the investigation, District 2 Councilman Jim Waring held nothing back in his admonishment of some of the actions and testimony of protesters during the meeting.
“I would like to applaud the Phoenix Police Department,”Waring said. “You’ve heard a lot of negative things tonight that I thought were wildly inappropriate. It pains me to see this discourse, but the thing that pains me the most is watching what was said about the officers.”
Stanton voiced his approval of the independent investigation, but Zuercher ultimately withdrew his proposal for the review.
“My attempt here was to respond to concerns for independent fact gathering, but it’s apparent that my proposal is not viewed as objective and so, therefore, I would respectfully withdraw my recommendation for this item,” Zuercher said.
Contact the reporter at DerekHall@asu.edu.